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Managing work-life boundaries with mobile technologies: An interpretive study of mobile work practices

Karlene Cousins (Department of Decision Sciences and Information Systems, Florida International University, Miami, Florida, USA)
Daniel Robey (Department of Computer Information Systems, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Article publication date: 2 March 2015

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the role that mobile technologies play in mobile workers’ efforts to manage the boundaries between work and non-work domains. Previous theories of work-life boundary management frame boundary management strategies as a range between the segmentation and integration of work-life domains, but fail to provide a satisfactory account of technology’s role.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors apply the concept of affordances, defined as the relationship between users’ abilities and features of mobile technology, in two field studies of a total of 25 mobile workers who used a variety of mobile devices and services.

Findings

The results demonstrate that the material features of mobile technologies offer five specific affordances that mobile workers use in managing work-life boundaries: mobility, connectedness, interoperability, identifiability and personalization. These affordances persist in their influence across time, despite their connection to different technology features.

Originality/value

The author found that mobile workers’ boundary management strategies do not fit comfortably along a linear segmentation-integration continuum. Rather, mobile workers establish a variety of personalized boundary management practices to match their particular situations. The authors speculate that mobile technology has core material properties that endure over time. The authors surmise that these material properties provide opportunities for users to interact with them in a manner to make the five affordances possible. Therefore, in the future, actors interacting with mobile devices to manage their work-life boundaries may experience affordances similar to those the authors observed because of the presence of the core material properties.

Keywords

Citation

Cousins, K. and Robey, D. (2015), "Managing work-life boundaries with mobile technologies: An interpretive study of mobile work practices", Information Technology & People, Vol. 28 No. 1, pp. 34-71. https://doi.org/10.1108/ITP-08-2013-0155

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited