The iPhone and iPad have essentially created one more day’s worth of work for most Americans. That’s the big headline from a study by mobile security and management vendor Good Technology. The study, which involved 1,000 of Good’s customers, found that during off hours, the average American will put in seven hours worth of work each week, or, one extra workday.
Concerns about maintaining a healthy work/life balance are nothing new. The mobile devices that make knowledge workers more productive have the downside of creating a situation where most of us can be reached very easily whether we’re on the clock and in the office or we’re at home in bed. This always-connected lifestyle has even given rise to mental health issues like nomophobia – the fear of being without one’s phone.
The tendency to work well past the end of the workday is so prevalent that 80% of us do so on a regular basis.
Working after hours has become so commonplace that only 25% of those surveyed said it had led to a disagreement with a spouse or significant other. More than half said that there was no argument at all when work seeped into their personal time. Sadly, that’s not surprising. If only one person in five stops working at the end of the day, there’s a pretty good chance you and your partner are both likely to work after hours.
So what are people doing with that extra workday our connected lifestyles have created? Largely, answering emails and making phone calls. For a majority of workers, putting in that added time is crucial to staying on top of things. Nearly two thirds (60%) do so just to stay organized. Nearly half said they feel like they have no choice in working outside of office hours.
That extra work impacts many different areas of life, including the ability to “switch off” at the end of the day and get a good night’s rest. Almost a third of Americans (31%) said they had trouble switching gears from work to home and family. Half the people surveyed said that they read and responded to emails in bed and more than two thirds (69%) said they won’t go to sleep without checking their email first. 40% of us send work-related emails as late as ten each night.
Not surprisingly, most of us start our day by checking our email – 68% of us will have done so before eight in the morning. Half of us will check our email before even getting out of bed. The average time when Americans first check our phones (or other devices – I usually reach for my iPad first thing in the morning rather than my iPhone) is 7:09 a.m.
Our family time also gets crowded by work emails and tasks – more than half of us (57%) will check work email during family outings and more than a third (38%) will check in while at the dinner table.
As bleak as this all sounds, it’s worth noting that some companies are pushing their workers to have a better work/life balance. Volkswagen is probably the best example. The company is so concerned about the mental impact of after-hours work on its employees that it disables the BlackBerrys of its employees in Germany at the end of the day to prevent them from working during their off hours.
Very few of us work for a company that will turn our access off for us. We can, however, make certain steps towards doing so for ourselves. The do not disturb feature in iOS 6 is ideally designed to let us “switch off” at the end of the day. Even the Reminders app in iOS 5 can be used to periodically encourage us to take a mental step back from our work lives. Another option is to deliberately schedule time off in our calendars. Even taking some little steps can be helpful in preventing burnout and other work-induced issues.