Ines Entgelmeier, University of Duisburg-Essen
Timothy Rinke, University of Duisburg-Essen
Digital communication technologies, such as computers, laptops and smartphones, promote the use of temporally and spatially mobile forms of work and increasingly transport employment-related tasks into the private sphere of life. The sociological discourse points to ambivalent consequences for employee: Digitization as a driver of dissolving boundaries between work and private life, of intensification and extensification of work; as a guarantor of compatibility for work, family and leisure time; as a gain of autonomy for the individual arrangement of work and life, as a danger of self-exploitation and mental overload.
So far, the opportunities and risks outlined here have been little empirically examined for Germany. There is a lack of representative quantitative studies. With a few exceptions (Kirchner, 2015), the state of research is based primarily on studies from the USA and Canada (Chesley, 2014, Schieman & Young, 2013, Wright et al., 2014). Simultaneous statements on the use of digital technologies and their impact on the working and living sphere are therefore hardly possible for Germany. For example, the use of ICT can increase the workload by soften the boundaries between work and private life. This process can be distressing when recovering from work becomes a problem ("Negative dissolution of work and personal life"). But it can also serve as a resource if requirements from both spheres of life can be integrated more flexibly into everyday life ("positive dissolution of work and private life"). Furthermore, past results do not allow to say for whom work related use of ICT can become a resource and for whom it can become a risk in relation to the dissolution of boundaries of work and private life in Germany.
We are going to examine the impact of work related ICT use on the demarcation of work and private life. In addition, in this analysis, we are taking into account person-specific characteristics such as gender, occupational status and family responsibilities. Thereby “risk groups” can be identified for which work related ICT use is associated with negative outcomes as well as groups which benefit from their use.
With regard to the theoretical and empirical state of research, we assume that a work related ICT use will lead to an increase in the dissolution of boundaries between work and private life (Carstensen 2015). But the effects may differ depending on person-specific characteristics. According to Schieman et al. employee in high occupational positions, unlike those in lower, have additional resources like higher work autonomy (“resource of higher status hypothesis”) which may buffer negative aspects of work related ICT use and allows them to use them as a resource for the integration of working and private life. Women, especially women with family responsibilities, are expected to be more affected by negative aspects of dissimulation than men due to their responsibilities for both paid and unpaid work. By contrast, feminine connotations of competences resulting from their gender specific socialisation can be of great benefit to highly qualified women in dealing with demands resulting from a dissolution of boundaries (Frey 2004, Voß and Weiß 2005).
We conduct cross-sectional and panel data regression analysis with the data of the European Working Conditions Survey (EWSC 2015), the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP 2006, 2011, 2016) and the BIBB / BAuA Employment Survey (2012). By linking the data from the BIBB/ BAuA Employment Survey with the data from the EWCS and SOEP we can make the most of the potential of these datasets for mapping the theoretical constructs. The use of these datasets allows to differentiate in detail between dimensions of work related ICT use, such as for example working on the computer and using the internet and e-mail as well as other job profiles which are particularly strongly connected with the use of ICT. The datasets also contain variables to map positive as well as negative consequences of ICT use corresponding to the concept of work-life conflict (Greenhaus and Beutell 1985, Cinamon and Rich 2002) and the enrichment concept (Greenhaus and Powell 2006).
Preliminary results from cross-sectional regression analysis with EWCS 2015 support the relevance of group-specific features for studies on the impact of employment related ICT use on the delimitation of work and private life. As computer, laptop or smartphone usage increases leisure work increases too. There are no differences between occupational positions but between women and men. While for women and also for women in management positions leisure work is reduced by working with the computer, laptop or smartphone, this effect does not show for men. The use of ICT can also facilitate compatibility between working and private sphere. Increasing computer use in the workplace improves the possibilities of reconciling the areas of life for women and men. It also makes no difference whether they live together with children or not. For people in management positions, however, the compatibility decreases regardless of gender.