2/23/16 · Economy

The e-nomads: A new species of worker

The e-nomads are a new species of worker. Their habitat is a work environment crowded with new devices, applications, services and communication networks. "They are workers who do not have a fixed territory for working; they use all the technological resources they have access to and they are always 'available', they are the 21st century's electronic or technological nomads," says Ines Dalmau, course instructor at the UOC's Faculty of Economics and Business. They may end up becoming the dark side of the large-scale implementation of information and communication technologies in the workplace.
photo: flickr / jean-etienne minh-duy poirrier (cc)

Photo: Flickr / Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier (CC)

Five ways to know whether you're an e-nomad

  • Wherever there's work, you're there, either physically or virtually
  • You definitely use ICTs
  • You are hyperconnected, you make no separation between work time and personal time, you don't keep regular working hours and there's no fixed time when you call it a day
  • You have no clear ties to a particular physical, social or cultural work environment. In other words, you frequently change your physical environment, social habits, schedules, etc.
  • You use and process large quantities of information, "you are hyperinformed"

Is technology to blame?

"The ICTs have given us the possibility of becoming 'nomads'; we can telecommute from any part of the planet," and there are thousands of apps to make our lives easier, but it is "that same technology – says Dalmau – that keeps us almost permanently connected, always available, always online, so that at any time we can receive a message, search for information, see whether someone else is connected," explains Dalmau. Taken to its extreme, the e-nomad "can feel anxious at the prospect of not receiving new messages or being unconnected for a few hours, a condition that is known as nomophobia," the expert continues.

According to Ines Dalmau, technology has completely taken over the e-nomad's life: "workload and task complexity increase manifold in proportion to the number of technologies used, the notion of information selection is lost due to the unlimited quantity of data available, personal relationships are replaced by virtual relationships". "It is impossible to keep a balance between work and private life because the two aspects are inseparably intertwined," she declares.

Health problems related with the e-nomads

The most common problems are "not being able to disconnect from work, which may lead to an increase in anxiety, mental fatigue and/or emotional exhaustion, among other symptoms, causing techno-fatigue," says Ines Dalmau, who adds that, "in some people, it may aggravate addictive tendencies and, in particular, the use of new technologies". Other common symptoms are "musculoskeletal disorders and eye strain, caused by the bad postures and bad lighting associated with using electronic devices anywhere and anytime," concludes Ines Dalmau.

Some preventive guidance

In the latest issue of the Oikonomics journal, the UOC experts Xavier Baraza and Ines Dalmau give a series of tips for avoiding telecommuting problems:

  • Manage your time well, quantify the time that you are available for working, be aware of and differentiate between the hours you are working and those you are not.
  • Prioritize tasks correctly, differentiating between urgent and important and defining the true level of urgency. When you receive an email, it does not mean that you have to answer it immediately.
  • Maintaining interpersonal relationships and positive experiences in the work environment helps maintain a sense of belonging.
  • The workplace must comply with current regulations as regards risk prevention, environment, data confidentiality, employee rights, prevent ergonomic risks, have all the necessary technology, assess the suitability of the software being used, define functions and responsibilities, identify costs, etc.
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