The gifts that turn you into a workaholic

Smartphones and email may have released us from our desks, but they have also chained us to our jobs.

It is called ''time pollution'', and a new Australian study of the ways that work encroaches upon private life suggests many workers are now on call all the time.

Three out of five employees polled by the Australia Institute in July worked outside normal working hours in the previous week. One in four of the 845 surveyed said their workplaces expected them to work from home.

''Workers should beware of bosses bearing gifts,'' warns the Polluted Time study. Seven out of eight employees supplied with an office smartphone or laptop worked from home, but more than half (52 per cent) of those who did not have office equipment at home still worked from their own phones and laptops on evenings and at weekends.

''So often the benefits of flexibility have flown in the direction of employers,'' said the Australia Institute's deputy director, Josh Fear. ''It's now normal to call someone on a mobile after hours or to email and expect a reply straight back.''

The creep of work into leisure time is not all due to managerial tyranny, Mr Fear said.

''There's something more sinister and subconscious at work. That's not management compelling them to do it; it's a change in work practices that brings about a whole different way of thinking about work to the detriment of the rest of life.''

Some employers could be held legally responsible for the consequences of their employees' ''crackberry'' habits or family unfriendly hours, researchers warn. Some corporations have started limiting overtime.

Senior managers at the Transport Accident Commission only answer emails between 7am and 7pm, after the chief executive, Janet Dore, introduced time-management initiatives last year.


''Even if you did sneak a look at your emails at the weekend, don't respond,'' Ms Dore said. ''Think: that's for Monday, I'll think about that in the planning time.''

''Smartphones are making a lot of people dumb,'' said the performance coach Andrew May, who advised the commission on time management. ''People who respond to emails immediately are making silly decisions.'' is on Wednesday, November 30.

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