Blog Post

Connected workaholism: global edition

Being constantly connected to work via your laptop or smartphone has huge advantages. You can work from your home, the beach or the airport while you’re frantically running to make a meeting, and you can choose your hours and always stay in communication. But is there one crucial thing all-out gadgets don’t let us do — turn off? (We’ll talk more about the remote over-workers at our Net:Work event on Dec. 8, 2011.)

We’ve blogged about concerns that hyperconnected remote workers are more prone to workaholism and burnout before, discussing whether the tendency of plugged-in pros to struggle to define work-life boundaries is an artifact of the type of people who choose this lifestyle or an issue that’s actually caused by all of our gadgets. But whatever the cause of the problem, it’s apparently widespread.

A survey of 1,599 IT pros for the seventh edition of the Australian Computer Society’s Employment Survey found that techies from down under are working increasingly long hours.

  • The number of IT pros working more than 40 hours a week rose from 65 percent in 2009 to nearly three-quarters this year (74.9 percent today).
  • Of those surveyed, 21.3 percent reported working 50 or more hours per week compared with just over 10 percent in 2009.

Of course, some of this increase in working hours could be in response to fears about job insecurity brought on by the global financial crisis (though Australia has weathered the economic storm better than most). But speakers from the industry at Ne(x)twork, an Australian conference organized by Fuji Xerox to explore the future of work, blamed our increasing addiction to connectivity.

Scott Mason, the director of products, marketing and strategy for Optus Business, hoped for “a bit of a backlash. We are so ‘on’ all the time,” according to Beverley Head on ITWire. “Stressing this was a personal rather than Optus viewpoint Mr Mason said that in the future people might come to question some of the health impacts of expecting employees to be available for work around the clock,” she writes.

“There may be a time when we all have to have some specific downtime,” Head reports Mason remarking. And Beth Winchester, the executive general manager of human resources at Fuji Xerox, apparently agreed, saying, “I have more requests about how to help stop people working than to start working.”

And it’s not just Aussies who are apparently suffering from connectivity-induced workaholism. Together flexible-office company Regus and Mindmetre recently asked 12,000 businesspeople from around the world about their work hours and health, concluding in the process that stress from overwork is “the twenty-first century Black Death,” particularly for remote workers. And they have the numbers to back it up:

  • Fifty-nine percent of remote workers take work home with them over three times a week, compared with only 26 percent of fixed-office workers.
  • Forty-one percent of remote workers work a 50-hour week, compared with 41 percent of fixed-office workers.
  • Fourteen percent of remote workers say their average working day is eleven hours or longer.

Do you think a similar survey focused on American workers would find plugged-in pros working equally long hours in this part of the world?

Image courtesy of Flickr user Orin Zebest

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