How do Mobile Workers (those whose work often takes them away from home) take part in key aspects of home life when travelling? This is the central question behind Family Rituals 2.0, a multidisciplinary research project that looks at the evolving nature of family life within the digital age to support work-life balance for mobile workers.
Family Rituals 2.0 was developed during an EPSRC ‘Creativity Greenhouse’ held in July 2012 with the key theme of ‘achieving work/life balance in a digitally dependent world’. During the greenhouse process, the research team identified the daily rhythms and behaviours of family life, namely family rituals, as key features of prosaic family experience that may come into conflict with workplace demands, especially in the digital era of being on-line or contactable at any time. It was felt that in efforts to support work-life balance a deeper understanding of the evolving nature of family rituals within the digital age was required.
The term work life balance is open to interpretation. In its most simple form, it can be taken as the point at which an individual is satisfied with their lives both at work and in other areas of their lives. However, complexity is evident, for example, work means different things to different people, boundaries between work and other aspects of lives are increasingly blurred, and what constitutes a balance is open to individual and cultural variation. Whilst definitions of work life balance are open to interpretation, what is without question is that for many, the nature of work is changing. In the technology based and knowledge intensive industries, work is released from its traditional time and space constraints, creating new opportunities for mobility and flexible working. Technology is instrumental in facilitating this change.
This research has at its focus one aspect of work-life balance: work that involves a physical separation of an individual from their families and home for extended periods of time.
Our research hypothesizes that engagement in domestic rituals are a way of constructing family life. We seek to understand individuals’ values held in everyday rituals and the situated social context of mobile workers, and how digital technologies might be used to support inclusion in these rituals for those who are away from home.
The aims are of our research are to:
- Understand the domestic rituals people share and the values they place in them
- Understand how existing technologies are being used to support in engagement in family rituals for mobile workers
- Explore existing technologies that facilitate ritual activity, as part of work/life balance
- Produce speculative designs around the novel reconfiguration of existing technologies to support domestic rituals
- Understand how simple technologies can support inclusion in domestic rituals.