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Still waiting for the good life

From CNN's Jim Boulden

Many hoped technology would mean less work. But has it delivered?
What best describes your approach to work/life balance?
Work takes precedence
Life takes precedence
My work and life are in balance
Balance is my goal
Balance is impossible
Global Office
Technology (general)

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Technology, we were once told, would make our lives simpler in the future.

There were promises of a paperless society that would make our at-work lives easier, meaning more time for us to spend doing the things we really wanted to do.

But many of us are still waiting for the dream to come true.

Technology writer Barry Fox says our lives have been complicated by technology.

He says that instead of spending more time at leisure, we're spending more time using the gadgets and often, figuring out how they work.

"We are trapped by technology. We have been sold the lie that technology makes life pleasant and easy and lovely."

Author Madeleine Bunting says one of the reasons we may feel technology has made us worse off, is because of the way it blurs the line between the home place and work place.

She says technology has made it easier for us to bring our work home with us.

"You went to work in an office or a factory and came home again and the two were some distance apart -- sometimes a considerable distance apart. So work was kind of limited, it had boundaries around it. Now we've dismantled all of that."

The mobile phone undoubtedly started the dismantling process. And technology such as the wireless handheld emailer, the BlackBerry, has taken things a huge step beyond.

But Charmaine Eggberry, director of marketing for Europe at Research in Motion, which makes the BlackBerry device, says the gadget gives people greater flexibility in how they spend their time and it actually gives them an extra half hour of free time a day.

"I have, for example, staff members with young families who work for me and what they have now is the flexibility to leave the office, go home, spend quality time with them and then work on their items that are urgent -- and note that word urgent -- when they want to and how they want to."

And the quicker you use the technology, the more spare time you have. Eggberry says the fastest email sent on a BlackBerry is between 40 and 46 words a minute.

Jonathan Wood, senior lawyer at London law firm KSB, says his colleagues and he would not be able to represent their clients as well if they did not have the latest tech tools -- but there are limits.

"If you are constantly trying to deal with your mobile phone ringing, your e-mails coming on to your desk, faxing are arriving, its constant intrusion, sometimes you have to say, 'No, I need to give this particular file three hours, four hours -- whatever it needs -- in fairness to that client.'"

Fox says technology is seductive and that people have to remember to use the "off" button on their gadgets. Otherwise, they can take over their life.

"I can only think that it's because what a computer can offer is so wonderful and so attractive that we are prepared to put up with all the kinds of nonsense that we do put up with."

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