Constantly Online and the Fantasy of ‘Work–life Balance’: Reinterpreting Work-connectivity as Cynical Practice and Fetishism

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Smartphones and other mobile communication devices are promoted with promises of enhancing professional competence and individual freedom in working life, and in work–life balance. However, an emerging stream of research demonstrates that the adoption of such technologies is accompanied by increasing stress, collective control and work intensification. This article provides a discussion of recent research on the effects of smartphone usage in contemporary organizational life. Generally, this research presents a contradiction between, on the one hand, the discourse on technologies as a means to enhance individual autonomy and competence and, on the other hand, the de facto incorporation of technology users in networks of control and an unhealthy work culture of permanent connectivity. Finding inspiration in the work of Slavoj Žižek and his development of psychoanalytical concepts, this article offers an alternative approach to this issue. It does so by reconsidering how to understand employee subjectivity and, specifically, why employees voluntarily embrace company-sponsored smartphones although they are fully aware of the damage that this technology creates in their personal lives.
Smartphones and other mobile communication devices are promoted with promises of enhancing professional competence and individual freedom in working life, and in work–life balance. However, an emerging stream of research demonstrates that the adoption of such technologies is accompanied by increasing stress, collective control and work intensification. This article provides a discussion of recent research on the effects of smartphone usage in contemporary organizational life. Generally, this research presents a contradiction between, on the one hand, the discourse on technologies as a means to enhance individual autonomy and competence and, on the other hand, the de facto incorporation of technology users in networks of control and an unhealthy work culture of permanent connectivity. Finding inspiration in the work of Slavoj Žižek and his development of psychoanalytical concepts, this article offers an alternative approach to this issue. It does so by reconsidering how to understand employee subjectivity and, specifically, why employees voluntarily embrace company-sponsored smartphones although they are fully aware of the damage that this technology creates in their personal lives.
LanguageEnglish
JournalCulture and Organization
Volume23
Issue number5
Pages363-378
ISSN1475-9551
DOIs
StatePublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Published online: 18. August 2016

Keywords

  • Communication technology
  • Work-life balance
  • Ideology
  • Dis-identification
  • Fantasy
  • Slavoj Žižek

Cite this

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title = "Constantly Online and the Fantasy of ‘Work–life Balance’: Reinterpreting Work-connectivity as Cynical Practice and Fetishism",
abstract = "Smartphones and other mobile communication devices are promoted with promises of enhancing professional competence and individual freedom in working life, and in work–life balance. However, an emerging stream of research demonstrates that the adoption of such technologies is accompanied by increasing stress, collective control and work intensification. This article provides a discussion of recent research on the effects of smartphone usage in contemporary organizational life. Generally, this research presents a contradiction between, on the one hand, the discourse on technologies as a means to enhance individual autonomy and competence and, on the other hand, the de facto incorporation of technology users in networks of control and an unhealthy work culture of permanent connectivity. Finding inspiration in the work of Slavoj Žižek and his development of psychoanalytical concepts, this article offers an alternative approach to this issue. It does so by reconsidering how to understand employee subjectivity and, specifically, why employees voluntarily embrace company-sponsored smartphones although they are fully aware of the damage that this technology creates in their personal lives.",
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Constantly Online and the Fantasy of ‘Work–life Balance’ : Reinterpreting Work-connectivity as Cynical Practice and Fetishism. / Villadsen, Kaspar.

In: Culture and Organization, Vol. 23, No. 5, 2017, p. 363-378.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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AB - Smartphones and other mobile communication devices are promoted with promises of enhancing professional competence and individual freedom in working life, and in work–life balance. However, an emerging stream of research demonstrates that the adoption of such technologies is accompanied by increasing stress, collective control and work intensification. This article provides a discussion of recent research on the effects of smartphone usage in contemporary organizational life. Generally, this research presents a contradiction between, on the one hand, the discourse on technologies as a means to enhance individual autonomy and competence and, on the other hand, the de facto incorporation of technology users in networks of control and an unhealthy work culture of permanent connectivity. Finding inspiration in the work of Slavoj Žižek and his development of psychoanalytical concepts, this article offers an alternative approach to this issue. It does so by reconsidering how to understand employee subjectivity and, specifically, why employees voluntarily embrace company-sponsored smartphones although they are fully aware of the damage that this technology creates in their personal lives.

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