Most Working Americans Now Use the Internet or Email at Their Jobs

Contact: Mary Madden, Pew Internet & American Life Project, 202.419.4500


Washington, DC - 09/24/2008 - A new national survey from the Pew Internet & American Life Project shows that 62% of adults who are currently employed use the internet or email at work and they have mixed views about the impact of technology on their work lives.

On the one hand, they cite the benefits of increased connectivity and flexibility that the internet and all of their various gadgets afford them at work. On the other hand, many workers say these tools have added stress and new demands to their lives.

This survey, "Networked Workers," also finds that 96% of those who work use the internet, email or have a cell phone for some purpose in their lives, even if those things are not specifically tied to work. We call this larger group "Wired and Ready Workers." When they are asked about the impact of these technologies on their work lives:

  • 80% say these technologies have improved their ability to do their job.
  • 73% say these technologies have improved their ability to share ideas with co-workers.
  • 58% say these tools have allowed them more flexibility in the hours they work.
At the same time, Wired and Ready Workers note various negative impacts of information and communications technologies on their work lives:

  • 49% say these technologies increase the level of stress in their job.
  • 49% say these technologies make it harder for them to disconnect from their work when they are at home and on the weekends.
  • 46% say these tools increase demands that they work more hours.
"American workers have a love-hate relationship with technology," said Mary Madden, Senior Research Specialist with the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and co-author of the report. "Along with the benefits of increased connectivity comes a host of new issues into workers’ lives. How do you strike a work-life balance when you are always reachable by the boss? What counts as overtime work when you are 'on the clock' at all hours? How much personal online browsing can you do while you are sitting in your cubicle? These challenges pervade many work places today."

The "Networked Workers" data comes from a national sample of 2,134 adults ages 18 and older, fielded between March 27, 2008 and April 14, 2008. Some 1,482 respondents in the survey were internet users and the margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for results based on internet users.

One of the major impacts of the internet and cell phones is that they have enabled more people to do work at least occasionally from home. Some 45% of employed Americans report doing at least some work from home and 18% of working Americans say they do job-related tasks at home almost daily.

The survey found that those who are most tethered to work are more likely to say that their gadgets and connectivity have had some negative impacts:

  • 9% of Wired and Ready Workers who hold professional and managerial positions say communications technologies have increased demands that they work more hours, as do 56% of those who already work more than 40 hours per week.
  • 63% of those who own Blackberries and PDAs feel as though gadgets and connectivity increase demands that they work more hours, and 30% feel as though these demands have increased "a lot."
"Email is still the primary artery of workplace communications in many professions, and it has clearly started to spill over into personal life," said Sydney Jones, co-author and Research Assistant for the Pew Internet Project. "Over time, workers have become more likely to check their email outside of normal working hours, and many are expected to do so by their employer."

Some 22% of employed email users say they are expected to read and respond to work-related emails, even when they are not at work. Blackberry and PDA owners are more than twice as likely to report that their employer expects that they will stay tuned in to email outside of the office. Fully 48% say they are required to read and respond to email when they are away from work.

  • 50% of employed email users say they check their work-related email on the weekends. Fully 22% say that they check their work email accounts "often" during weekend hours, compared with 16% who reported the same in 2002.
  • 46% of employed email users say they check email when they have to take a sick day; 25% say they do so "often."
  • 34% of employed email users say they will at least occasionally check their email while on vacation; 11% say they do so "often."

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