By: Marco Raffaelli
Young workers are now so used to being connected through mobile technology, they both demand it … and feel a little guilty about it.
A new Harris Poll reveals that more than a quarter of so called “Generation Mobile” or “Gen M” workers are performing their professional duties on a smartphone or tablet. A solid majority of them are also using technology to blur the lines between their professional and personal lives. So while that company smartphone is great to check your e-mail on the go, many of us also enjoy taking a glimpse at what’s happening on Instagram.
For the purposes of the study, Generation Mobile is defined as full – or part-time workers ages 18 to 34 (or those with children under 18) who use a mobile device for work. Harris polled 3,521 workers in France, Germany, Japan, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S., about half of whom (1,702) met the Gen M criteria.
Eighty-two percent of Gen M respondents reported doing at least one personal task on mobile per day during work hours; 64 percent do at least one work task on mobile per day during personal hours. Based on the data shown below, I’d wager a guess that many Gen M’s are far busier on their smartphones than they believe.
As a “Gen M” on the younger end of the spectrum, I’ve become far more dependent on mobile technology than I admit, but it is far too handy. Why bother sitting down, opening my laptop, logging in, and checking the news when I can open the app on my smartphone in the time it takes to read this sentence? From almost anywhere? Sometimes my smartphone feels like an extension of me; rather than a device that I use to further my connectivity. This is my smartphone. There are many like it, but this one has limitless ways for people to call, text, tweet and hopefully sometimes pay me.
“Mobile is fundamentally changing how we work and live,” said Bob Tinker, CEO of MDM platform vendor MobileIron, which commissioned the research. “The Gen M Study, to us, reflects the emerging, connected culture of modern business.” Mobile devices have made the 9-5 workday a thing of the past, as we no longer need to be plugged in to exchange ideas with others.
“Forward-thinking companies embrace this change and understand that mobile is as much an HR program as a technology initiative,” Tinker added. “To recruit and retain the best and brightest employees, companies must establish policies that are aligned with the way employees want to work and live.” The use of mobile devices to complete work is encouraged by the masses, but poses its own set of risks. If certain safeguards are not in place and employees are constantly responding to work related e-mails and calls, this next-level connectivity may lead to employee burnout.
By many measures, we are also unaware of how mobile technology makes us disconnected. Parents at their kid’s soccer games checking stocks and weather reports instead of cheering on their offspring are putting a damper on the childhood experience. These individuals probably feel a little guilty about not seeing Jimmy make a great defensive play. We are increasingly addicted to the immediacy of information sharing that our smartphone provides, effectively ruining our time away from work.
The survey results contain a strong warning for employers that would seek to curtail Gen M’s mobile aspirations. Clearly, the way this generation wants to work and live is by being constantly connected. How did we ever survive by only checking our personal e-mail at home? These seem like some dark times that I wouldn’t want to return to. Better than 60 percent of Gen M professionals said they would leave their job if their employer did not allow any remote work or restricted their ability to do personal tasks at work.
Which is not to say younger workers aren’t conflicted over a work-life balance skewed by constant connectivity. As the study points out, there is a significant amount of “mobile guilt” associated with the technology-enabled blending of business and pleasure. Sixty-one percent of Gen M respondents say they feel guilty when receiving work communications during personal hours; only slightly fewer (58 percent) feel the same way about receiving personal communications during work hours.
As mobile technologies evolve, however, young workers and the organizations that employ them will need to find creative ways to support mobility in the workplace. Smart organizations are working to accept and support shifting work styles. Part of that comes from setting clear goals for performance that emphasize results rather than the location or timing of the work. It also stems from establishing top-down boundaries that keep senior leaders from issuing work directives at all hours and abusing an always-on workforce.
Many of these key issues can be addressed by a thoughtful Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) policy that encourages employees to use the tools they need to get their jobs done efficiently and securely, and provides appropriate reimbursement for personal technology.
A new study this week by analyst firm Computer Economics titled Bring-Your-Own Device and Adoption and Best Practices, found that 44 percent of enterprises have a BYOD policy today. That’s up from 37 percent that had adopted such policies in 2013. CE researchers said they expect the percentage to continue to grow as smart devices — and particularly wearable technologies — become even more prevalent. We predicted this trend and built our ClickMobile in HTML5 exactly for this reason.
Already, 42 percent of Gen M members polled by Harris say they are anticipating broad adoption of wearable technology. 95 percent of those respondents said they expect to use a wearable computing device for work-related tasks like taking calls, e-mailing, accessing calendars and work schedules, and reading business documents.
“Smartwatches, such as the Apple Watch, are expected to be very popular,” Tinker added. “These wearables will increase our connectedness and, possibly, our guilt about mixing our work and personal lives.” When smartphones became mainstream, we were all absorbed by them. Messages, games, maps; everything was readily available. What wearables will provide is not only an improvement in connectivity, but accessibility. I won’t even have to pull something out of my pocket to see who just won the game, or closed the biggest deal of the quarter.
Wearables have undergone a slow start, but once they take off the possibilities will be limitless. Advancements will provide more ways for you to connect with people on a personal and professional level. Mapping out your heart rate during a workout, knowing when your significant other will be home, and clocking out of work will all be possible right from the wrist. Or wherever the early adopters decide to strap a device to.
Each generation is making leaps and bounds in terms of how they expand the usage of technology. There are no doubts that the progress is truly exponential not only in the power of the tools, but how we use them to improve our personal and professional lives. Now let’s all do more to balance the two.
How do you use your smartphone at work?