Tech skills help blend work, home lives

The study by Pitney Bowes, in cooperation with the Institute for the Future, was developed from daily diaries kept by 500 people who recorded details of their day-to-day work and home lives.

Researchers later posed questions about the diary entries, says Meredith Fischer, vice president of corporate marketing at Pitney Bowes.

She says the study finds that instead of separating home and work, more of us are using the technology and techniques we learn at the office to better run our households.

Blurring borders

"People are talking about managing the home more like a corporation," she says.

This is the fourth year Pitney Bowes has funded a research study of this type, and the second involving both the workplace and the home, she adds.

More than 47 per cent of the people surveyed say their work communications have spread well beyond regular business hours. On the flip side, about 32 per cent say they often conduct household business at work.

To manage that kind of overlap, people are turning to technologies such as cellular phones, personal digital assistants, and e-mail, Fischer says. By transferring work-related technologies and know-how to the their home lives, people are better equipped to get things done, she says.

Tips for integrating work and home

Because work and home life are bound to intersect anyway, it makes sense to plan for it, Fischer says. Based on the study, she suggests five basic integration techniques:

Create "message-free zones" where cell phones and pagers are off limits, and individual concerns (not work or household duties) are primary. "We are so connected today," she says. "Sometimes to do creative work, or just to have some quiet time, people must remove those communication tools."

Use work skills for home tasks. For example, use a PDA to track home-related tasks and information, she says. Also, individual family members can bring work-related skills, such as time management or multitasking, to the household chores.

Initiate "selective access." Instead of making yourself available to everyone via a multitude of communication tools, pick one or two you like best. If you're always carrying a cell phone, have everyone (work and home) call you on that. That way you're not forced to check multiple devices for your messages.

Synchronise schedules. At home it's important to have a single, central calendar where everyone can add their schedules and see what the rest of the family has planned. For some, that means compiling information from assorted PDAs and personal information managers and adding it to the refrigerator calendar, she says.

Share the load at home. Assign each family member a task or two, such as the laundry or paying bills. Just like at the office: Many hands make a heavy load light.

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Tom Mainelli

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