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Balance Network Seminar - Prolonging working life through ICT: the role of crowdsourcing

balance_network_colour_boxed-01.pngThis one day seminar, organised and led by Dr Sally-Anne Barnes, explored how crowdsourcing has changed the boundary between work and home enabling older people to achieve a new work-life balance and remain part of the labour force. The seminar and follow up activities are being funded by the EPSRC Balance Network. Some of the speakers and an overview of the seminar will be presented at the coming conference, Beyond Balance: how digital technologies are affecting our work, our homes and everything in between, in June 2016.

The development of a fast and reliable internet, new technologies, new online payment systems and changes in work structure have driven a shift to new forms of internet-enabled labour exchange such as ‘crowdsourcing’. Crowdsourcing is defined as the outsourcing of work to a large group through an open call made possible through advances in technology. The term crowdsourcing is evolving as new aspects of using internet-enabled exchanges in work-related activities emerge. Using crowdsourcing platforms and websites, workers can search and access paid work, which is often, but not always, conducted remotely. It is predicted that by 2030 the UK population and workforce will be older. With the raising state pension age, people will be expected to work longer. This experienced and skilled workforce will push for a better work-life balance, particularly in later life. There is a growing interest in internet-enabled work as a way to engage the wider workforce and determine policy required to support this new workforce. This form of work may be useful for older workers who may have elder care responsibilities, be less mobile or be unable to travel for work.

The aims of the seminar were to:

  • Foster interdisciplinary dialogue by bringing together key stakeholders to debate issues of work-life balance, crowdsourcing and prolonged work life; and to
  • Contribute to future research that would examine crowdsourcing from a worker perspective to inform policy.

The seminar:

  • Examined if, and how, crowdsourcing has changed the boundary between work and home;
  • Explored current understandings of the role technology can play in achieving and/or disrupting work-life balance for older workers;
  • Identified enablers and barriers to engaging in paid work through crowdsourcing platforms and achieving a balance for older workers;
  • Determined whether opportunities for paid work through crowdsourcing platforms offer a way to achieve a better balance in a prolonged working life.

A brief report on the seminar is available to download.

Seminar presentations

Welcome and introduction by Dr Sally-Anne Barnes

Current trends in crowd employment

Professor Ursula Huws, University of Hertfordshire Business School

The role of human and social support in sustaining digital participation of older ICT users

Professor Leela Damodaran, Loughborough University

Click here to find out more about the Sus-IT: A New Dynamics of Ageing Project


Reshaping the work-life boundary?

Professor Chris Warhurst, Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick

Crowdsourcing 4 good

Jayne Cravens, Coyote Communications

Crowdsourcing and engagement by older workers

Dr Sally-Anne Barnes, Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick\

Click here to find out more about the CrowdEmploy project.


This seminar provided an opportunity to review and critically evaluate current understanding, policies and practices around crowdsourcing and how it can contribute to the achievement of work-life balance in prolonged working life. Overall, the objective of the seminar to promote new thinking and stimulate new research agendas around this technology enabling work-life balance was achieved.

Beyond Balance Conference, London (27 June 2016)

Sally-Anne Barnes with Anne Green, Leela Damodaran and Simon Joyce led a session at the Beyond Balance event based on the 'Prolonging Working Life with ICT' seminar.

For more information on the event, keynotes and presentations go to the Beyond Balance Conference website or download the conference booklet.


Some resources from the presenters have listed here.