Work-life conflict in Covid era: Is ICT a boon or a curse?

Technological domination by developed nations emerges as a new form of colonization as developing countries are the markets, writes Dr Mohammad Rezaul Karim for South Asia Monitor 

Dr Mohammad Rezaul Karim Dec 02, 2021
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Is ICT a boon or a curse (Photo: Thinking Tech)

Restrictions on movements and closure of offices during Covid-19 forced people to remain confined at home. This along with ample free time made many get accustomed to the Internet in an unprecedented way. When almost every business derailed, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) saw an exponential increase in usage. Thanks to the Internet, office work got done at home.  

Although ICT-induced devices helped people to spend time, this eventually came to dominate people’s lives. Information Technology (IT) has captured every aspect of human life -- from personal to professional. The dramatic rise of IT has brought tremendous benefits to human life. It has changed the working process, service delivery and even thinking capacity. Modern life without IT seems disabled. It is a setback to administrative culture, decision-making process and service delivery system.  

E-government is the use of information communication devices and software to render service. ICT comprises both hardware (computer, mobile, Intranet and Internet infrastructure, modem and server) and software (various apps, online platform and social media). Is the use of ICT leading to work-life balance or conflict? Work-life balance amounts to spending more quality time with the family, emphasizing family bonding. 

Until a few years back, having a telephone or mobile, computer, printer, Wi-Fi password and email was a notion of entitlement and social dignity. Even a telephone at residence or mobile with sufficient talk time brought happiness. In spite of having pronounced benefits, the use of ICT produces unintended and unwelcome consequences including IT-based cultural domination, new colonization, technological slavery, attacks on privacy, hindrance to personal safety, insecurity, family conflict, mental pressure, health hazards, and hindrance to creative thinking.  

Effect on family 

Children are the biggest losers because of excessive use of ICT as it hits the urge to study. They become addicted. Parents who allowed them to use ICT tools later realize the negative side of these devices. Thus, ICT, especially during the pandemic, expedited work-life conflict. 

After stipulated office time, office work is carried home with the digital device. If the phone rings or a message comes through social media or cell phone, the user becomes restless until the issue has been addressed. Messages from senior officials change behavior, at times leading to unpleasantness with family members.  

The use of IT increases expenditure but decreases the quality time for family members and family activities. The use of ICT and multiple devices turn life to 24/7 office through all seasons. The pandemic has extended the work hours, hampering personal time. 

Children are annoyed at times by the excessive use of the Internet by parents. Office work even moves from one’s home to another’s. Invited guests ask for Wi-Fi password after entering the house and start working on urgent official business or attending social media. Social media dramatically reduces social linkages. Expression of love has been replaced by emojis. People’s reliance on the Internet and social media apps for commutation continue even as the severity of Covid abates. 

Humans becoming I-humans

Technology has inherent problems. IT infrastructure requires uninterrupted electricity supply, better Internet bandwidth and effective software. Interruption between calls or social media keeps individuals busy until the connection is restored. Social media makes the user look repeatedly for the number of likes and reactions by viewers.  

Long working hours that began with Covid-19 has led to high blood pressure, insomnia, mental disorders, fatigue and boredom. Technological domination by developed nations emerges as a new form of colonization as developing countries are the markets. Developing countries struggle to keep pace with technologically advanced countries.  

Due to the increasing use of ICT, the higher the position in office hierarchy, the higher the work-life conflict. It turns a man into a mechanical being; citizens transform to Netizens, humans become I-humans. 

Developed countries have already issued restrictions over calling and sending email after office time, compulsory leave for those with families, shortening office time, and introducing Wednesday holidays to enjoy life better. The work-life conflict that Covid-19 has intensified must be mitigated, and human-friendly steps must be taken to balance work and life with the restricted use of ICT. 

(The author is Deputy Director, Bangladesh Public Administration Training Centre (BPATC), the apex training institute for civil servants in Bangladesh. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at reza@bpatc.org.bd.) 

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