A mobile lifestyle allows for flextime and telecommuting. What's the downside?
A mobile lifestyle makes employees more productive but can take a toll on workers’ health, according to a new study on the effects of mobile technology such as smartphones and computer tablets on the U.S. workforce.
“We know that mobile workers are working around the clock, putting in 240 hours more a year on the job on average,” said iPass Enterprise Mobility Services in a release announcing the results of their latest study, Mobile Workforce Report Q4 2011.
Mobile employees – defined by iPass as those who rely on technology to increase their productivity – report feel happier and satisfied, but longer working hours and increased connectedness to the job may be undermining their physical and mental health. “Have they become addicted to their smartphones, and what are the implications of ‘hyperconnectedness’ on their health?” asked iPass, a provider of software and wireless workplace platforms.
More than half the employees surveyed said the thought of going without their smartphones for one week is distressing and would elicit negative, emotional responses. Forty percent said they would feel disoriented without their smartphones, and 34 percent said they would feel distraught. Ten percent said they would feel lonely without their smartphones.
More than 90 percent of mobile workers described their health as good or excellent, and most said their mobile work environment contributed to their health, though iPass research found that most mobile employees don’t get the recommended amount of sleep or exercise. Nearly half identified the flexibility of working when and where they chose as positive to their health. A minority of employees, 13 percent, said flexible work hours were detrimental to their overall health because they were working all the time.
“Interestingly, when we looked at some of the pillars of good health – sleep and exercise – even mobile employees who saw themselves as healthy were not getting enough of either,” said iPass. One in four mobile workers sleep less than six hours a night, though research shows the average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
“This was highest among 35 to 54 year olds, which could also tie in with the pressures of the high earning and parenting years,” said iPass. “Higher job stress based on the current economic environment could also be a factor.”
One in three mobile workers claimed they got less sleep because of work, though older mobile workers were more likely to claim that they got plenty of sleep and did not let their work habits impact their sleep. “Is it that older mobile employees are less hyperconnected?” iPass said. “Or is it that they are better able to manage their work stress and not let it affect their sleep patterns?”
More than 20 percent of mobile employees never exercise, and more than 34 percent exercise erratically, said iPass. Sixty percent cite work as they main reason for not exercising enough. Those who never exercise say it’s because they don’t have the time.
Business travel can also impact health. The average mobile employee travels three to five days a month for work, and more than one-third spend more than a week per month on the road. Nearly 45 percent of those who travel for work say being on the road is bad for their health.