Category Archives: Work/Life Integration

Use of Technology at Work: Counter-intuitive Findings

Data Point TuesdayA recent Pew Research Center report examines the impact that technology has on workers and provides some counter-intuitive data. “Digital Life in 2025: Technology’s Impact on Workers” looks at a representative sample of adult Internet users and the role or impact of digital technology on their work lives. The report helps to identify the role of technology in different areas of business, what certain workers find most valuable, and provides surprising perspective on the discussion of whether technology is keeping employees productive, or spreading them too thin and negatively pressuring them to stay constantly connected or “plugged in.”

Among online workers, the Internet and email are deemed the most important information and communication tools, though it may be surprising that social media was ranked very low in importance. 61% of American workers who use the Internet stated that email is “very important” for doing their job, while 54% said the same about the Internet. Only 4% reported that social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn were “very important” to their work.Email Importance

It may also be surprising that for online workers, landlines outrank cell phones in use and importance. 35% of workers surveyed say landline phones are “very important” to their work, compared with 24% who say the same about cell phones. Internet and email are ranked as highly important for those that work in traditional “office jobs,” and ranked as critical for the 59% of employed adults who work outside of the office at least occasionally.

Many reviews of the impact of technology today argue that technology can distract as easily as it can be used as a productivity tool. However, Pew Research’s data found that only 7% of online adults feel that their productivity has dropped because of the Internet, email, and cell phones, and 46% report feeling more productive. 51% of Internet using workers cited that the Internet, email, and cell phones notably expand the number of people they communicate with outside their company. 39% of online workers say that the Internet, email, and cell phones allow them more flexibility, and 35% say it increases the number of hours they work.

Impacts of digital technologyWhen it comes to the question of productivity, the vast majority (92%) of working adults say that the Internet has not hurt their productivity (including 46% of those who say it has not changed their productivity and 46% who say it has increased their productivity). Those in office jobs are twice as likely as those in non-office jobs to say that the Internet has increased their productivity.

Many employers are being proactive regarding the perceived tendency for the Internet to “distract.” 46% of workers surveyed state that their employer blocks access to certain websites, and have rules about what employees can say or post online (a figure that has more than doubled since 2006). Despite this, 18% of working adults report being unaware if their employer blocks sites and 27% are not sure if their employer has rules about what they can say or post online about their workplace. On the flipside, 23% of working Internet users report that their workplace encourages them to promote it online, and 59% say this is not something their workplace encourages them to do. Overall, Pew Research’s data show that more and more employers are implementing policies – “social media policies” – covering what employees can or cannot say about their employers online.Rules of online presentation

While we seem to read daily about the threats of digital technology from hacking and spam, phishing scams and warnings about loss of productivity and work/life integration, this data indicate that email remains just as important and used by American workers as when it first became of workplace tool, and is likely to continue to be a vital tool across the workforce. Pew Research Center’s report highlights that employee productivity may not be as negatively impacted by distractions from the Internet as some managers assume, but rather points to some other potentially problematic areas that organizations should be conscious of as they continue to increase their use of technology. Specifically, these concerns include the difficulty from employees in being able to “unplug,” as workers report the Internet and email are reasons for an increase in the numbers of hours they work. Additionally, organizations should check in with employees about their social media/internet policies. If they have policies in place, are employees aware of them? If organizations don’t have policies in place, giving thought about how to provide guidance to employees may be warranted – especially for organizations that are heavily dependent on technology and the internet.

More than anything else, this report should cause us to consider whether, in fact, email is truly dead – as many Millennial watchers believe; whether everyone is dying to use their smartphones at work, and how big a productivity threat popular social media sites really are. Admittedly, this survey’s sample was not enormous, but a 95% confidence rate might provide motivation to take a closer look at the impact technology is having on the productivity, work/life integration and lives of our employees.

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Filed under China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Digital Worklife, Email, Internet, Pew Research Center, Productivity, Technology, Work/Life Integration

Working Parents Feel More – Not Less – Stress

Data Point Tuesday
Bright Horizons
recently conducted a national study, “The Modern Family Index” that explores what it means to be a working parent today. The study revealed some insightful points, including that working parents still perceive that their responsibilities with their family may cause them to experience significant challenges at work. Bright Horizon’s research highlights that much has changed towards how parents approach family obligations and the level of conflict they experience. But how positive are those changes when, overall, many employees still feel like they can’t be honest with their supervisors about family responsibilities?

Perhaps the most obvious example of change toward family obligations in 2014 is that work/family balance is not only an issue for mothers. Fathers report being nearly just as stressed and insecure about work and family conflicts as mothers (46% of dads say that one of their daily stressors is child care needs during the workday, vs. 52% of moms) and are likely to be just as nervous as women to tell their bosses about some of their big family commitments (63% of men vs. 68% of women). Additionally, for fathers, work/life integration ranks just as highly as other top stressors like saving for retirement and managing personal health. Additionally, telling their bosses that they need to take time off for a family matter is just as stressful (39%) as telling a boss they’ve made a mistake on a work project (36%). When it comes to flexible scheduling, one in three fathers (34%) report asking their employers for more flexibility or modification of their work schedule to meet obligations to their children (compared to 42% of moms).

While the increased balance of family obligations between men and women represents a positive trend, it’s still concerning that working parents so highly perceive that family obligations can negatively impact their career – or actually cause them to be demoted and fired. Bright Horizons Family Means Firedreports that 60% of working parents have at least one work-related concern caused by family responsibilities, and 48% admit one of their concerns due to their family responsibilities is that they could get fired! If there’s any statistic to highlight in this report, I think it’s probably this one: nearly 50% of working parents are concerned about getting fired for having family obligations! Additionally worrisome data follow this statistic, including:

  • 39% of parents fear being denied a raise because of family responsibilities
  • 37% fear they will never get promoted again, and
  • 26% worry about a demotion because of family responsibilities.

And to make sure family obligations don’t impact work time? Parents report spending 51% of paid time off dealing with family responsibilities instead of taking a trip or relaxing at home.

Bright Horizon’s research unfortunately pulls the rug out from under the belief that discussions of work/life integration and family obligations are commonplace today. Certainly they are more common than they were in the past, but this study indicates that we might not be taking the leaps and bounds that all the headlines around work/life integration suggest. Employees today remain just as nervous bringing up key family-related issues (51%) as important work-related problems (52%) with employers, and 23% of working parents (almost a quarter) admit to lying or bending the truth to their boss about family responsibilities that get in the way of work:

  • 31% of working parents have faked being sick to meet family obligations
  • 39% admit that one of the things they would be nervous to tell their boss is that they need to miss a work event for a family commitment
  • 56% (more than half!) of working parents report that one of the topics they would hesitate to ask their boss about is reducing hours, working remotely or placing boundaries on responding to calls or emails.

This would be a good time to consider what work/life integration programs your organization offers – as well as the attitude senior management has towards employees with families. Does senior management walk the talk or are family friendly policies just lip service? Make sure working parents are aware of programs that are in place to help them balance their work and family responsibilities, and, perhaps more importantly, make sure it is emphasized that it is OKAY, and expected, that working parents utilize those programs. Creating family friendly policies in one thing. Encouraging their use and ensuring that parents’ careers are not jeopardized for using them is an entirely other thing. Where does your organization net out?

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Filed under Bright Horizons, China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Work Life Balance, Work/Life Integration