Family Rituals.


Work can demand time away from home. For some employees being away from home might be a few days on a frequent basis, for others it may be much longer periods. Being away from home can impact on family life and participation in family rituals, creating a challenge to managing the competing demands of work and life. Information and communication technologies assist in overcoming the barrier of distance, between the absent worker and family.

This research will focus on mobile workers across a number of different employment sectors (for example, technology, construction, and tourism industries, and the armed forces). It will look at both family and organisational practices.

The research will find out what mobile workers and their family members consider to be family rituals (both secular and religious) and why it is important for these family members to share these moments together. Specifically, it will seek to understand what those rituals might be in different types of family setting. It will look at the role of existing digital technologies in supporting families to engage in such shared ritual activities.

The research will also explore, through a series of design-led activities, what the challenges and opportunities are for technology use in these family settings. And then, in close collaboration with the families, the project will design and develop some novel prototype digital technologies. This approach will use both high- and low-tech designs which participating families will live with and use, helping us to further explore the role of potential technologies in supporting remote engagement in family rituals.

Alongside working with families, the research will also find out how organisations consider the work-life balance of their mobile employees, and how these organisations may assist in helping a family to connect whilst the employee is away from home. These organisations will be invited to attend a workshop at the end of the project, to learn about the research findings, and debate how the outcomes should be taken forward in future research and their potential impact on the organisations.

Project Details

April 2013 – September 2015 (with ongoing elements)
EPSRC (EP/K025678/1)
Funded value:
  • Dave Kirk, Northumbria University (Principal Investigator)
  • David Chatting, Newcastle University
  • Jo-Anne Bichard, Royal College of Art (Co-Investigator)
  • Paulina Yurman, Royal College of Art
  • Adele Ladkin, Bournemouth University (Co-Investigator)
  • Juliet Jain, UWE Bristol (Co-Investigator)
  • William Clayton, UWE Bristol