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9/24/2008
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'Networked Workers:' Connected, Distracted, Stressed

A new Pew Study suggests 62% of the workforce is more likely than the average American adult to own a cell phone, laptop, and a BlackBerry, Palm, or other PDA.

"Networked workers," those who regularly use the Internet or e-mail at their workplace, view technology as a mixed blessing, according to a new Pew Internet & American Life Project study.

Of the 53% of American adults who say they're currently employed, 62% qualify as networked workers, as Pew's researchers define the term.

Networked workers are: more likely than the average American adult to own a cell phone (93% vs. 78%); more likely to own a desktop computer (85% to 65%); more likely to own laptop (61% to 39%); and more likely to own a BlackBerry, Palm, or other PDA (27% to 13%).

While these people acknowledge the flexibility that such gadgetry affords them, "many workers say these tools have added stress and new demands to their lives," the study said.

To elaborate on this statement, Pew's researchers present answers culled from "Wired and Ready Workers," a group that Pew defines as the 96% of employed adults who are in some way making use of new communications technologies -- either by going online, using e-mail, or owning a cell phone.

On the plus side, wired and ready workers say these technologies: make their jobs easier (80%), make it easier to share ideas (73%), and give them flexibility in the hours they work (58%).

On the minus side, communications technology increases demands that they work more hours (46%), increases job-related stress (49%), and makes it harder to disconnect from work at home and on weekends (49%).

While workers may resent the work-related intrusions into their home lives, they also commonly bring their home lives to work. Of the 53% of working adults who have personal e-mail accounts, 54% percent of those say they occasionally check their personal e-mail accounts while at work and most do so daily.

For what it's worth, working from home appears to be correlated with higher pay.

"More than two-thirds (69%) of employed adults earning $75,000 per year or more say they work from home at least some of the time; one in four do so every day or almost every day," the study said. "By comparison, just 30% of those in jobs earning less than $30,000 per year work from home, and 12% do so every day or almost every day."

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