The Life of the ‘Networked Worker’

About six in 10 workers are now “networked workers,” according to a new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Analyzing data collected in April among people who work part- or full-time, it found 62 percent use the Internet or e-mail at their workplace.

And if workers are online at all, they tend to be online every day. The report says 60 percent use the Internet at work every day, while 28 percent never do so. Just 11 percent use it either “just once every few days” (5 percent) or occasionally but less often than every few days (6 percent).

Among workers who use the Internet on their jobs, have e-mail and own a cell phone — a cohort dubbed “Wired and Ready Workers” in the study — most say these have improved their work lives. Eighty percent of the Wired and Ready said these technologies “have improved their ability to do their job”; 73 percent said they’ve “improved their ability to share ideas with co-workers”; 58 percent said “these tools have allowed them more flexibility in the hours they work.”

But respondents also note a downside to all this connectedness: 49 percent said these technologies “increase the level of stress in their job,” and 46 percent that they “increase demands that they work more hours.” Forty-nine percent said it makes it “harder for them to disconnect from their work when they are at home and on the weekends.” Among those who own PDAs and Blackberries, “63 percent feel as though gadgets and connectivity increase demands that they work more hours, and 30 percent feel as though these demands have increased ‘a lot.’ “

Elsewhere in the study, 53 percent of working adults said they have both personal and work e-mail accounts, while 22 percent have just a personal account and 5 percent just a work account. Half of those who are wired on the job said they check their work e-mail accounts on weekends, including 22 percent who do so “often.” That latter figure matches the number who said they are “expected to read and respond to work-related e-mails, even when they are not at work.”

If work intrudes on personal time because of new technologies, the phenomenon also cuts in the opposite direction. Thus, 22 percent of employed Internet users said they’ve done “at least some” online shopping and purchasing while at work. But just 3 percent said they’ve played online games while in the workplace.