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Executives Torn Whether Tech Gadgets Help, Hurt Work-Life Balance, Survey Says

Execs are split on whether tech tools such as PDAs and smartphones make staying in touch with work more convenient at the expense of personal and family time.

You might want to think twice before putting a new Treo on your holiday wish list. Executives are split on whether tech tools such as PDAs and smartphones make staying in touch with work more convenient at the expense of personal and family time.

Sixty-seven percent of executives say they work remotely, and those who do spend an average of 11.4 hours per week performing business-related tasks, including checking e-mail, outside the office, according to a new survey by executive recruitment and career development firm ExecuNet.

The online survey of 155 executives, including C-level execs, directors, and vice presidents, also revealed that 56% are very likely to check e-mail while on vacation, 36% are somewhat likely, and only 8% aren't likely at all to check messages while away on holiday.

Nearly 80% of executives say they use mobile devices such as a Blackberry or Treo to stay connected. Executives are split on whether these types of tech gadgets improve or impede work-life balance: 56% say technology tools have improved juggling work and personal time, but 44% say they haven't.

"There's no question that people are more tethered by technology today," says ExecuNet CEO and founder Dave Opton. "But it's also provided a great amount of flexibility in balancing work and personal time, being closer to the family while working," he says. "I can grab a cookie and check my e-mail from the comfort of my home. Twenty years ago, that might've meant being in the office from 6 or 7 in the morning to 6 or 7 at night."

A company's culture also seems to influence how connected executives stay to work. Sixty-one percent of the executives say their companies expect them to be accessible outside of business hours, 29% say being available during off-hours or on weekends is implied but not mandatory, and only 19% say they're not expected to be reachable after they leave the office.

The expanding global economy also plays a role in the need to stay connected through many time zones in a day, Opton says.

Finally, it's not just the boss who's staying tethered through technology. "Everyone is more compulsive," using cell phones in restaurants, the car, or anywhere to stay connected to work, family, and friends, Opton says.

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