The emergence of new technologies such as smartphones and tablets has increasingly blurred the boundaries between the work and family spheres. However, the consequences of this continuous connection between work and home for health and productivity remain unknown. On one hand, Cross-domain Information Technology (IT) use offers flexibility that can improve work-family balance, and thus promote health and healthy family relationships. On the other hand, cross-domain IT use might increase work-family conflict, by decreasing leisure time and restitution, and thus increase occupational stress. Hence, we need to know to what extent, when and for whom smart technology is healthy or unhealthy.
The Flex-IT study's main objective is to gain knowledge about determinants and experiences of healthy and unhealthy cross-domain IT use. Flex-IT examines technology use across the work and family spheres both before, during and after the COVID 19 pandemic. We operationalize cross-domain IT as a) IT use for work tasks after work-hours; and b) IT use for non-work tasks during work-hours. We pay particular attention to the interplay between individual, health, familial and organizational factors. The goal is to promote a healthy sustainable workplace, reduce sickness absence, mental and somatic ill health, and enhance well-being and work-family balance.
The Flex-IT study uses a mixed-method (quantitative and qualitative data) and multilevel approach to generate new knowledge on healthy and unhealthy cross-domain IT use. We will: 1) Provide a scoping review and bibliometric analysis of available research on IT use across the work and family domains; 2) Collect and analyze workers' (n=55) experiences with cross-domain IT use in depth using qualitative interviews (conducted in 2020-2021); 3) Test causal models using a longitudinal design of dual-worker couples (n=500) over six months; 4) replicate and extend these results in a smaller, more detailed "diary study?, following dual-worker couples (n=150) over seven days, including objective measures of sleep quality, exercise and health; and 5) Develop an evidence-based toolbox for health-promoting use of smart technology, based on the findings from 1-4 and in consultation with relevant user groups. The aim is to promote healthy and sustainable workplaces, reduce sickness absence, promote mental and somatic health, and increase well-being and work-family balance.
Preliminary findings from the interview study show that the flexibility provided by the technology is perceived as helpful for dedicated employees in combining demanding jobs with family life. However, preliminary findings also show blurred borders between the work and family domains presents challenges for the employees and their families. The study will increase the understanding of both opportunities and challenges of cross-domain IT use. Because the interviews were conducted in 2020-2021, we have also gained insight into how the COVID 19 pandemic challenged the boundaries between work and home for these families.
Clayborne, Z. M., Nilsen, W., Torvik, F. A., Gustavson, K., Bekkhus, M., Gilman, S. E., ... & Colman, I. (2022). Positive maternal mental health attenuates the associations between prenatal stress and children’s internalizing and externalizing symptoms. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 1-14.
Nordberg, T., Drange, I., Berstrøm, Vilde H., og Nilsen, W (2022): “Interdisciplinarity and cross-methods communication under the loupe – a bibliometric examination of the literature on cross-domain ICT use” (in review) (WP1).
The emergence of new technology has increasingly blurred the boundaries between work and family domains, and the consequences for the health and productivity of the labor force remains unknown. Cross-domain Information Technology (IT) use offers flexibility that can increase the balance between work and family domains and thus promote health. On the other hand, cross-domain IT use might increase the conflict between work and family life by decreasing restitution and increase occupational stress. These contradictory perspectives make it important to understand to what extent, when and for who cross-domain IT use is healthy and/or unhealthy. Previous investigations of cross-domain IT use are limited by the use single-method and single-source approaches, a failure to consider both negative and positive impacts and the lack of an overarching multilevel perspective integrating individual, familial and organizational factors.
In order to move beyond this current impasse, we proposal an integrated mixed-method and multilevel approach, organized in four work packages (WPs). Specifically, we will perform a systematic review to ensure a robust foundation on the best available empirical knowledge (WP1); conduct semi-structured narrative interviews to map dual-worker couples' experiences with cross-domain IT use in depth (WP2); conduct a well-powered longitudinal survey with state-of-the-art statistical methods to delineate temporal pathways and test causal models (WP3; N = 500; six waves; duration = six months); replicate and extend the main results from WP3 in a smaller but more detailed "diary study" including objective measures of sleep quality, exercise and health (WP4; N= 150; duration = one week); synthesize main findings together with key stakeholders in order to develop a "toolkit for healthy cross-domain IT-use" (WP5). Flex-IT thus utilizes state-of-the-art integrated mixed-method methodology to generate new knowledge on healthy and unhealthy cross-domain IT use.