Project 2

Technological innovation at work and work-life outcomes


To describe and explain the influence of technological innovations in the organization on work-life outcomes, such as work-life balance, wellbeing, and (in)equality for workers.

Theoretical Background

The nature of work is changing. Technology frees us partly from the need to work during regular working hours and at a traditional workplace. This may lead to new patterns of interaction and time use within organizations and families. (Mullan & Wajcman, 2017). Individual workers respond differently to organizations’ flexibility policies which may have consequences for their work-life integration and health. Society as a whole may benefit from technological advances, as it has in the past, but a divide – by gender, age, social class, ethnic background or professional background – is looming. Some will benefit from new technologies in their work, their productivity, job prospects, health and work-life balance. Others, however, may be excluded from these benefits or even experience negative consequences in terms of employability, well-being, health or the blurring of boundaries between work and private life. Recent analyses have shown that the impact of technology on work and individuals is far from straightforward.

In this project we study how technology influences work of employees, and what the consequences are for their work-life balance, health, wellbeing, and (in)equality. Insights from work-family theories will be applied to generate hypotheses about consequences of technological transformations for work-life balance, health and well-being; theories from sociology of work and occupations include the job and organization thereby (Kelly et al., 2014). On the one hand, technological advances offer greater freedom for individual workers and managers, and thus we expect new possibilities for work-life balance. On the other, they present normative dilemmas, such that technologies that can be used to increase freedom simultaneously increase possibilities to control workers, which might blur the boundaries between work and family life for workers. We expect that there are clear differences between men and women therein. Moreover, we argue that behaviours and norms of colleagues and managers regarding technological innovations, will influence the consequences for work-life outcomes of the individual employee. The broader organizational work climate needs to be conducive to coping with technology, such that work is not too stressful and intervening with other aspects of people’s life.

Research design

The project will use the European Sustainable Workforce Survey (ESWS). The ESWS is unique because (a) it is a recent, large-scale survey among 11,011 employees (wave 1/2016 and wave 2/2018) nested in 869 teams in 259 organizations in 9 European countries (UK, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, Spain, Portugal, Hungary and Bulgaria), (b) contains longitudinal information about technology and work-life outcomes, and (c) has detailed information on work-related norms and behaviour of colleagues and managers. To better understand the influence of colleagues and managers in the context of technology at work, we also undertake an in-depth social network analysis in selected organizations of the ESWS.

  • Mullan, K. and Wajcman, J., (2017). Have mobile devices changed working patterns in the 21st century? A time-diary analysis of work extension in the UK. Work, Employment, and Society
  • Kelly, E. L., Moen, P., Oakes, J. M., Fan, W., Okechukwu, C., Davis, K. D., … & Mierzwa, F. (2014). Changing work and work-family conflict: Evidence from the work, family, and health network. American Sociological Review, 79(3), 485-516.
Project initiators

Tanja van der Lippe (UU), Anne-Rigt Poortman (UU)