When Microsoft and Ipsos set out to gain some fresh insights into Australians use of personal technology, we figured we would find most of us are firmly wedded to a smart device.  Well, that expectation turned out to be well founded. Among the wealth of data in the white paper launched today, Life on Demand, is the revelation that 76% of us use a smartphone and 45% use a tablet.

What we also thought we might find was that technology had taken over every aspect of our lives but in fact, the research shows just the opposite.  We have become experts at using smart devices to making sure no minutes are wasted and some of the time gained becomes a tech free zone.

Australians across all age groups and demographics are masters of their technology and their time. Work and play are completely interchangeable – no matter what time it is, we maximise every spare moment, whether it’s for life admin, work or leisure.

The research shows that 30% of Aussies are checking work emails on devices at home before they leave for work, 23% are doing work activities while they are socialising with their friends. 44% are doing work activities after work at home and 38% are working on the weekend.

But all that work is not at the expense of our much loved leisure time. Some 53% of us play on our devices while at work, dipping in and out of gaming, watching videos, online shopping, browsing blogs/media and checking or updating social media.

Our technology has become a constant extension of us, wherever we are – a complete departure from the way we lived life as little as five years ago. Social context and location no longer determine what we do. Two thirds of people use productivity apps to get things done throughout their day and 3/4 of Aussies believe technology has made their life easier.

We need devices and services that give the flexibility to move from one part of our life to the next, but we’re also learning how to adapt to this new way of living and negotiate some ‘tech-etiquette’ around the role of technology in our lives. An honourable 79% believe it’s rude to text or use your phone when out with friends, while 71% get irritated when family/ friends use their phones when they are talking to them.

We’re starting to see society question the cultural norms around presentee-ism – the need to be highly visible at work to signify that you are contributing. Flexible, collegiate ways of working are eroding the command and control style relationships between managers and team members that have been commonplace in the workplace until now. As a result, we’ll start to see greater emphasis on trust, autonomy, and accountability in work, as exemplified by flexible work styles and practices.

From a Microsoft point of view, these developments are incredibly reassuring. Technology is a tool and we have a responsibility as the tool makers. Our opportunity for innovation lies not just in designing a tool to meet a functional need, but in understanding the human truth or motivation driving that need.  It’s our responsibility to create with care so the burden doesn’t fall too heavily on the user’s shoulders. It should be physically, cognitively and emotionally appropriate for people.

By putting people at the centre of our design, we are increasingly able to design tech that understands our nuances, emotions and quirky behaviours. It isn’t about where tech is going, it is about where humans are going. This will lead the technology.

And as tool makers we are also heartened to discover that Australian’s appetite for more cool new stuff remains substantial.

In the next ten years 40% of Australians believe we’ll be using embedded wearables to monitor our health and well-being and one in three believe we won’t have to go into the office anymore.

‘Life on Demand’ is a reality for everyday Australians. This white paper paints a vivid picture of exactly what this new way of living looks like, and also explores what lies ahead to ponder the ways technology will continue to transform our lives.

Take a look at the full whitepaper via the download link below and join the conversation at #lifeondemand