Smart phones, tablets and laptops make work almost inescapable as we are almost always ‘wired’. This also means that work can be more flexible than turning up in an office from nine to five, five days a week. This idea of liquid labour – whereby work is flexible and not bound by traditional constraints of time and space – is examined in Gregg’s “Function Creep: Communication technologies and anticipatory labour in the information workplace.”
New technologies are sold as important, useful and necessary for all workers, but rather than make work life easier, they make work life more accessible and work life leaks further and further into the rest of a workers social life.
A major issue in Gregg’s study was with email. The study focused on email because it was easy for participants to provide tangible evidence. Participants expressed guilt at not answering email promptly and not wanting those they are communicating with to feel ignored. This in turn led to feelings of failure at their work because they could not keep up to date with their emails. However, this was a problem that was felt across the study and across industries.
While this liquid labour is put forward as positive thing that allows workers to utilise their time how they choose, it does have a number of downsides, in particular the work life invading leisure time. Essentially, the more flexible work enabled by technologies is still bound by the same etiquette and ideals, just across a new platform.