Work mobile phones and laptops may be well-intentioned gifts to encourage flexible working conditions, but according to new research by The Australia Institute, these benefits actually make workers feel obligated to work longer hours.

As part of its National Go Home On Time Day (30 November 2011), The Australia Institute has released the research which indicates the lines between work and home life are becoming increasingly blurred. National Go Home On Time Day, now in its third year, aims to raise awareness of the prevalence of overtime in the workplace, and this year focuses on the concept of ‘polluted time’. Time pollution refers to the way in which, thanks to technology, work can impede upon an employee’s free time at any time.

“Our survey findings suggest that in a workforce of 11.4 million people, some 6.8 million workers experience some degree of time pollution in any given week, while 1.75 million workers regularly have their free time polluted by work demands,” says Josh Fear, deputy director at The Australia Institute.

According to the report, of those surveyed, 60 per cent reported they had done work outside of their normal working hours within that week. Of those who had been given a device by their employer, seven out of eight said they had worked outside of normal working hours, compared with 52 per cent of those without a device. The most common intrusion on free time was email, even more so than phone calls, meetings or travel.

“Many workers consider their laptops and smartphones as a perk of their job, but those same devices can also invade free time,” says Fear. “Australians already work some of the longest hours in the developed world, and technology often exacerbates the problem rather than relieving it by making people perpetually on-call.”