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Microsoft’s new research shows the non-stop march of technology into Australians’ lives and the disruption of work/life balance, but does it also show that much of this is happening without Microsoft phones, tablets, software and PCs?

The study aims to quantify technology’s role in liberating the interchangeable work and play day, and discusses the evolution in consumer behaviour, the leaps in society’s etiquette and explores the future of social change within our work and play lives due to the rapid adoption of technology in Australia.

It also illustrates what most of us already know: modern technology has led to us being able to work anytime and anywhere, and while this has delivered stunning benefits to productivity, it has also helped upset our work/life balance even further. 

Millennials aged between 18 and 35 years form the group feeling this change the most, given their general mastery of modern technology, and are now “consciously setting limits” and seeing one in five take ‘no contact – time-out’ breaks from technology to ‘switch off’. 

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Another one in five are making the time for meditation to help their minds and bodies ‘power down’, while unsurprisingly using not just fitness classes but also meditation apps to do it. 

But it’s not just millennials getting in on the cyber act – 82pc of Australians are using “at least one form of smart device (smartphone or tablet)”, although Microsoft naturally doesn’t point out that the majority of these users are very likely using hardware and software that isn’t from Microsoft, but from Apple or Google instead. 

That said, the results are still striking, and indicates the market Microsoft wants to be in, the people it wants to reach, the problems it wants to solve and the devices it wishes people were using – if you read between the lines. 

After all, the research shows that “26pc of Australians work from anywhere which has more than doubled in the last five years”, which “has fast forwarded the consumer behaviour change so prevalent in Australian society”, leading to the need to manage and control our “Life on Demand” being at the “forefront of the new skillset Australians are devising for themselves across every age group, and in every aspect of our lives.”

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But how much of this is done with Microsoft technology? While I still see some PCs on people’s laps as they commute to work on trains or buses, many more stare into their Androids and iDevices, checking mail, playing games, watching videos or reading books. 


As the research shows, personal time is no longer sacred, with work and play time being completely interchangeable, as everyone with a smartphone or tablet who has ever checked work emails during personal time knows only too well. 

Microsoft’s study says this is “maximising every spare moment, whether it’s for life admin, work or leisure”, with 30pc checking work emails on devices at home before they leave for work, 23pc doing work activities while they are socialising with their friends, 44pc doing work activities after work at home and 38pc working on the weekend.

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Thankfully, however, we’re told that not all of this work is at the expense of leisure. 


The study shows 53pc of Australians play while at work, dipping in and out of gaming, video, online shopping, browsing blogs and social media, while 65pc use productivity apps to get things done across their day and 73pc believe technology has made their life easier.

Steven Miller, head of Microsoft’s Office division commented: “One of the most interesting things about these findings is the amazing array of activities people are doing on their devices. They work, play, talk, create, share, collaborate, research, watch, listen, they manage – the list goes on.

“When you think about it, this is a significant departure from how we lived life in the very recent past, where people’s activities were predictably tied to specific times and places and where they used specific devices for specific tasks.

“Our devices have become much more than just utility products, they’re the nerve centres of our lives. We watch how people navigate their day and work to remove the friction and frustrations that keep them from doing even more in both their personal and professional lives. The balance we individually find with technology is personal to our own individual needs which is why we need to create a user experience you can make uniquely you and fit into your increasingly fluid life.”

No doubt Microsoft hopes to make people’s lives even more fluid and personalised by getting more people to use its operating systems, tablets, smartphones and games consoles. 

The next few years will us the Company’s level of success, with the danger being Apple and Google running away ever further with the consumer tech market and leaving Microsoft in the boring business PC desktop space. 

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Still, if anyone is in a position to fight back, it’s Microsoft, who are spending millions in the Australian market to create stores-within-stores at places like JB HiFi to truly promote Windows tablets, notebooks, hybrids and desktops, and the upcoming push from later this year and all through next to make Windows 9 sales and popularity truly shine. 

 
The study, which was conducted with research firm Ipsos and is genuinely worth reading and chock full of very interesting facts, figures and stats, is available to download free of charge from a Microsoft Australia blog post, with the direct “Life of Demand” PDF download link here



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