Mobile Workers Working Longer, Sleeping And Exercising Less - InformationWeek
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11/21/2011
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Mobile Workers Working Longer, Sleeping And Exercising Less

Are you always connected? Is vacation just working in a more exotic location? If so, you're not alone, according to a new survey.

Mobile workers' "hyperconnectivity," where they are always connected to work through their mobile devices, is affecting their physical and mental health. According to an iPass survey of 2,300 people from 1,100 companies worldwide, mobile workers on average sleep and exercise less due to the constant demands of their job, and expect to suffer emotionally if they don't have their smartphone. They no longer have down time that might have come from their commute or simply being at home.

"What we're finding with mobile employees is that work isn't a place that you go to. It's something that you do," said Kate Blatt, director of communications for iPass, and one of the authors of the survey. "Vacation is work from a more exotic location."

First E-Mail Check Of The Day When do you first check e-mail in the morning?

More than 62% of respondents sleep seven or fewer hours a night, and 23% sleep six or fewer hours a night. Fifty-two percent said their mobile work habits affected their sleep. Nearly 5% sleep fewer than five hours a night.

William Parker, a helpdesk analyst in New York, often takes his work home with him by connecting back to the office. He gets fewer than five hours of sleep a night, sneaking in cat naps during the work week.

"I get all my rest on Friday," Parker said." [I] go to bed around 6 p.m. and will wake up around 7 a.m. Saturday.

Though Parker's case might be extreme, it illustrates the increasing pressure information workers are under. Mobile devices have created an implicit set of expectations for today's mobile workforce who--according to the study--are working more than ever. On average, they're working 240 hours more a year than the workforce in general, or nearly five hours more a week. The reason for so little sleep just might be their mobile devices themselves. More than 45% of mobile users sleep within arm's reach of their smartphone.

Fifty-six percent of mobile workers exercise erratically or not at all. Sixty percent of those who don't exercise blamed work, with more than a fifth of respondents citing lack of time.

Of the 59% of mobile employees who said they would have an emotional response to being without their smartphone, 52% said it would affect them adversely. Of those, 42% would feel "disoriented," 34% would feel "distraught," and 10% would feel "lonely".

So far, the stress from hyperconnectivity of the mobile worker is not reaching a tipping point or causing backlash. In fact, on average, the survey found the mobile employee is generally happier than employees who do not work out of the office. Moreover, people might be learning how to draw the line between work and leisure. "Last year people said, 'I never disconnect from technology unless I'm in a dead zone. I'm always connected. I sleep with my smart phone,'" said Blatt. "[Now] in Q3, people are saying they set aside specific times when they disconnect, [for] a family dinner, when they go to the theater. There are a lot of specific times when people are disconnecting."

Blatt reasoned that things are going to start moving back to the center where people will set aside time to disconnect. But this moderation might not last; perhaps due to the recession, employees are going to be motivated to work more hours to show their productivity and keep their jobs, even at the expense of their health.

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