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Annual Review 2016

Going off the grid: Can employees really switch off during travel?

The research

Technology has had a massive impact on our lives and has changed the way we work, live and travel. In an era where digital technology affects all aspects of our lives, do we ever fully switch off? 

Understanding how technology affects our ability to take a rest from work will be critical to individuals and organisations in managing expectations and implications of the 24/7 always-on culture.

Researchers at Bournemouth University are beginning to explore this developing issue and what it means for our ability to balance work and our personal lives by bringing together different groups of people – academics, students and the general public, as well as tourism and technology professionals.

Social media and mobile technologies have in particular allowed people to connect on an unprecedented way, which in some ways brings many benefits – we can find out almost anything at any time. 

But this also comes with downsides as people often feel the pressure to be always ‘on’ and connected. This can have consequences for our leisure and holiday time, which were traditionally seen as times to switch off, relax and recharge.

To kickstart their research in this area, Dr Barbara Neuhofer and Professor Adele Ladkin ran a half-day event at Bournemouth University, funded by the Balance Network and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, to open a debate about changed work-life balance realities in a digital age. 

The impact

Alice Rook, Account Manager at Liz Lean PR

“I juggle multiple social media accounts on a daily basis at work and use social media in a personal capacity as well. It can be difficult to know how to switch off. Social media doesn’t stop so you need to work out where to draw the line. I was invited to be a guest speaker at the event to discuss the use of social media in today’s world and how we all rely on it more and more when travelling.

“Previously, I participated in a one-week digital detox at Champneys Spa and despite finding it eye-opening (and quite challenging), I believe that it’s definitely more important to find balance on a daily basis rather than to ‘binge detox’. It’s not realistic to cut off for a week at a time and then immerse yourself back into work, emails and social media; you’re just throwing yourself back onto the hamster wheel.”

The academic

Dr Barbara Neuhofer, Lecturer in Tourism and Hospitality Management – event lead together with Professor Adele Ladkin, Professor of Tourism Employment

“We found that digital technologies play a key role during travel and can enhance our experiences in numerous ways.

“At the same time, we found that technological intervention affects the travel experience, as people find it increasingly difficult to switch off as work and everyday life issues spill-over into travel time.”

The student

Adriano Gherbin, MSc Hotel & Food Services Management – attended the event

“As far as I am concerned, being connected to the digital world has always been something in which pros and cons can be equally weighted.

“Are we slaves of new technologies or are we clever enough to balance our connectivity and down time?

“The amazing conference held by Dr Barbara Neuhofer and Professor Adele Ladkin gave a really in-depth overview on work-life balance. It highlighted several aspects which I’d never considered before."