Does mobile tech make you uneasy at work and home?

As any modern office worker knows all too well, mobile technology has officially infiltrated the workplace. This comes with many upsides, including greater efficiency, connectivity, and collaboration.

But there’s also a downside to all this connectivity. Because people can stay connected to work even when they’re not technically working, many of us feel that we should. Many employers expect workers to be on call at all hours of the day, even while on vacation or taking time off for other reasons. This, in turn, can disrupt work-life balance, increase workload expectations, make it harder to unwind, and add new pressures to the daily grind. Mobile technology has also led to an increase in interruptions at work, which can cause stress, frustration, time pressure, and excess energy expenditure.

In light of these new workplace developments, a whole body of research has emerged as social scientists try to understand the ways mobile tech influences our lives and work. There’s a lot of great data regarding how instant gratification affects productivity as well as also some really interesting data on how different generations respond to these new workplace demands.

But in order to gain new insights into this topic, we didn’t just want to mine existing data. We wanted to hear straight from workers themselves. So we created an online survey. We heard back from more than 350 respondents, each of whom shared their reflections on how mobile tech affects their lives and work. Here’s how we went about creating the survey—and what we found.

The Method Behind Our Inquiry
The development of this survey was guided by one fundamental question: How does mobile technology affect workers both in and out of the workplace?

In order to explore this issue, we started by putting together a 10-question survey using Google Consumer Surveys. The survey ran from Feb. 24, 2016, to Feb. 27, 2016. During that time, we heard back from 353 U.S. workers. Participant demographics broke down as follows:

  • A mix of men and women responded to the survey
  • All respondents were Android smartphone users
  • Respondents hailed from one of three different age groups:
    • 25-34
    • 35-44
    • 45-54

Of course, because participants were self-selecting this survey was limited because we didn’t have much control over who responded. And it was only 10 questions, when we could have easily asked 100 (But what busy worker would have agreed to take a 100-question survey?). Still, the responses provided some truly interesting results.

Differences Among Age Groups
We expected to see some differences in responses based on age, and we were right. Some of these responses seemed to confirm certain stereotypes, while others weren’t as predictable as we originally thought.

Let’s start with the similarities:

  • Participants of all ages tend to respond to emails promptly—often on the same day that emails are received.
  • Most participants admitted to feeling some kind of pressure to respond promptly to emails (although the degree to which participants felt pressure to respond varied by age group).
  • Across the board, only 3.7 percent of respondents said they “never” felt pressured to take action immediately after reading an email.
  • A majority of respondents say they check their email on weekends “most of the time.”

Then there were the notable differences among age groups.

For starters, respondents age 25 to 34 were more likely than other age groups to have their work email on their phones. This is not surprising when you consider that Millennials tend to value quick responses and instant gratification. They’re also the first generation of digital natives, i.e. people who have grown up with technology integrated into their daily lives.

This last point may explain why the youngest age bracket sometimes reported less mobile-tech-related stress than their counterparts in the age 35 to 44 bracket. In fact, this group reported being most affected by mobile technology disruptions during downtime outside of work. People in this age group also reported checking their email “most of the time” during time off (as in weekends, weekday evenings, and on vacation) at a higher rate than either of the other age groups.

Some of the most significant age differences seemed to break down along broader age categories, with respondents age 25 to 44 answering in similar ways and respondents age 45 to 54 adopting a different attitude. For example:

  • Respondents in the 25 to 44 age group were more likely to check social media during work activities such as a meeting or phone call, while roughly 10 percent fewer respondents aged 45 to 54 reported this form of multitasking.
  • Respondents between the age of 45 and 54 are more likely to “never” check their email during time off than either of the younger age groups.
  • On sick days, a little more than one quarter of respondents age 45 to 54 “sometimes” work part or all of the day, while more than one-third of respondents age 25 to 44 choose to work while home sick

Based on these responses, it’s clear mobile technology has placed new pressures on workers of all ages, although people in the 25 to 44 age bracket may experience the most pressure to remain connected at all times. We invite you to explore these responses in more detail by perusing the infographic below. If you’ve ever felt pressure to remain hyper-connected to work, you’ll quickly see you’re not alone.