There was a time when the workday ended after leaving the office, but a new survey suggests the arrival of smartphones has meant many workers are putting in as much as a full day of unpaid overtime each week – answering work emails at the dinner table, on family outings and even from bed.
The benefits and flexibility of going mobile clearly come at a price, indicates the May poll of 1,000 working American adults that was conducted by Good Technology, a California company that makes software allowing people to work on their smartphones away from the office.
For instance, 80 per cent of those polled said they used mobile technology to continue working after office hours.
Half of respondents admitted to checking work emails in bed, starting at 7:09 a.m., on average. Fifteen hours later, the story was much the same, as 40 per cent said they were checking work emails after 10 p.m. and more than two-thirds saying they wouldn't go to sleep without checking in.
All this adds up to an average of seven extra hours each week — almost a full day of unpaid overtime.
"Most of our customers believe their employees do work more hours as a result of this accessibility," acknowledges Good Technology vice-president Jim Herrema.
He said his customers said their employees appreciated the ability to get work done whenever they needed to, "whether that's in the office, on the road, or while sitting in the stands at a child's baseball game."
Workers feel they have no choice
But while many of the workers in the survey indicated they checked their work emails to stay organized, almost half felt they had no choice because customers or their bosses expected it.
"They send documentation for Monday morning meetings at 8:30, [on] Sunday at 9 p.m.," Linda Duxbury, an expert on work/life balance who is a professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, told CBC News. "If they don't expect the employee to actually respond and get these messages, why send them then?"
Toronto resident Joel Brooks, an IT manager at a large multinational, said he checks his smartphone all the time, and it's part of his job to be available outside traditional work hours.
"There's pros and cons to carrying a BlackBerry in your pocket," he said. "On the pro side, I can be out of the office and still get things done."
The "con" side is you're never really away from the job in today's "always on" mobile workplace.
More 'mental health days' reported
The survey also found:
- 57 per cent of respondents checked work emails on family outings.
- 38 per cent routinely checked work emails at the dinner table.
- 25 per cent reported all of their mobile work while away from the office caused an occasional disagreement with their partners, while over half reported this kind of overtime was so commonplace that it had never caused any arguments.
With the line between work and home life becoming blurred, some workers and their families are finding it stressful.
"We measure a kind of absenteeism now called 'mental health days,'" Duxbury said. "It's, 'I can't face work, so I'm not coming in.' That's increased — the intent, the desire to leave your employer — that's increased."
The Good Technology survey was carried out by OnePoll from May 18-28.