Liquid Labour: A bless or a curse of information technology?

“Industrial work is set to the rhythm of the machine, while knowledge work is set to the flow of information” (Mitew 2012).

In this day and age, the accessibility of the Internet enables us to be connected 24/7 via electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops. We can interact with each other online, send texts to our friends and so much more. This technological innovation has led to a new form of labor: liquid labor.

This new form promotes work flexibility as employees, particularly white-collar workers, are not constrained by time and space, as examined by Melissa Gregg. The liquid labor creates a mobile workforce – a group of workers scattering across physical locations and being connected by electronic devices and the Internet.

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While this liquid labor is considered to be beneficial as it allows employees to freely manage their time, able to work from anywhere and not confined inside a 4-walled office space, it actually comes at a cost.

These types of workers have started to bring their work home, expecting to have more convenience and freedom while what they actually do is getting ‘trapped’ with their work 24/7. With the fact that mobile email is booming, “many workplaces used email as a real-time indicator to signal presence and professionalism” and employees thought that if they did not respond instantly to email, it might be perceived that they were slacking off somehow (Gregg (2009, p. 13). This led to the feeling of guilt and pressure at their work. Besides, social media and instant texts even make the line between work and personal life more blurry.

It really is a paradox, that the convenience we think technology has offered us is making us feel as if we were constantly at work. The impact of technology on work-life balance is significant. Hence, separating our work and our life is more important than we imagined. Technology has changed the way we work but it still is up to the person to prioritize between work and life and also to understand their working style to cope up with the paradigm shift. At the end of the day, keep in mind that we do not live to work, we work to live!

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Reference list:

Gregg, M 2009, Function creepcommunication technologies and anticipatory labour in the information workplace, p.13.

Mitew, T 2017, Liquid labour, Prezi slide, BCM206: Global Networks, 21 July, University of Wollongong, viewed 15 August 2017, <https://prezi.com/jzxu5yetufdf/liquid-labour/&gt;

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4 comments

  1. I couldn’t agree with this more! I have two jobs, one that is a liquid labour style, and the other with a centralised style. I find both good and bad in some respects, I love being able to do work whenever I want with my liquid labour job, but I hate that people assume I’m available to do work whenever they need, and I find it hard to switch off, there’s no clear break. My centralised job lacks flexibility, so it’s hard to live more spontaneously, but once I’ve finished work I’m done0 I don’t have to think about it anymore. I may have less free time, but it’s actual free time. I think either work style can work, you’ve just got to work with it. Have you experienced either first hand? Which do you think is better? Love the article, keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I share the same feeling! Personally, I think no matter how advanced technology becomes, we should still work the same way the past generations did. I don’t want to get the feeling of being involved in work all the time. And I especially don’t want it to affect my personal life. We don’t live to work, we work to live!

      Like

  2. There are jobs that allow you to work from anywhere between certain hours and they keep track of the information you receive and send out between those hours – my mum does this from home working for a bank. However it’s definitely the jobs that consume you at any time that is the hassle, it’s like you have the day off as long as you answer every call for as long as needed. Personally I’d prefer set shifts than the unpredictability of liquid labour.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I also prefer the original work method, which is to get yourself to the office and do all the tasks with other colleagues. I hope that no matter how developed technology becomes in the future, people still consider office as a standard workplace.

      Like

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