Too-in-Touch Workers, Part-Time Puffers, Etc.

Thanks to modern technology, some workers feel more put-upon than ever. In a poll of working adults conducted for Spherion Corp., 31 percent of men and 23 percent of women said their employer “expects them to stay connected to the office outside of normal work hours.” Twenty-six percent of respondents said staying tethered to the office via e-mail or cell phone “interferes with their personal lives.”

Everyone agrees that the Internet is more interactive than older media. As such, one would expect multitaskers to be less likely to engage in non-media pursuits while they’re engaged online. A survey by BIGresearch, though, suggests it’s not so. When asked if they do non-media things at the same time they’re using various media, 69.3 percent of respondents said they do so while online, slightly exceeding the number who said they do other things while listening to the radio (69.0 percent) or watching TV (68.1 percent). The incidence of non-media multitasking was much lower for people who were reading a newspaper (40.9 percent) or magazine (40.2 percent). One obvious caveat: The numbers may reflect the fact that people today are more apt to have the radio or television on than they are to be reading periodicals.

You’ve met the quitters. Now meet the occasionals. Last week in this section, we noted federal data showing that the number of ex-smokers tops the number of current smokers. A Gallup poll draws our attention to another element of the tobacco typology: the occasional smoker. Given the anti-tobacco forces’ emphasis on tobacco’s addictive properties, it’s a type that should scarcely exist. And yet, Gallup’s survey indicates that it constitutes one-fourth of all cigarette-smoking adults. In the poll, 15 percent of adults said they smoke every day, while 5 percent said they smoke “some days.” The rest said they don’t smoke at all. The poll also asked whether its respondents have smoked at least 100 cigarettes during their lives. Forty-seven percent said they have. Putting all the findings together, one sees that fewer than one-third of adults who’ve smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lives are current everyday smokers.

If you live in the woebegone-looking building (just north of New York’s Times Square) where Smithwick’s hangs its new billboard, daylight may be the least of your worries. Nonetheless, the Irish ale will win approving glances from passersby who see that a hole has been cut into the billboard to let the daylight—and, for that matter, the area’s abundant nightlight—into one lucky window. While they were at it, Smithwick’s and its agency (BBDO of New York) could have generously let some light into a window one floor down by cutting out the w in the ale’s brand name, since it’s silent.

Here’s a reason to get (or stay) married: If you lose your job, odds are that your household will still include someone who’s employed. That’s one moral to be drawn from a new report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Among married-couple households with at least one unemployed member, 82.5 percent also had an employed family member in 2004.” The husband and wife both worked in 50.7 percent of married-couple families last year, continuing “a downward trend since 2000.” The husband alone worked in 20.5 percent of married-couple households (up 1.3 percentage points since 2000), while just the wife did so in 6.7 percent. The report documents a continued migration away from the workplace by mothers of young kids—not on a vast scale, but not insignificant, either. Among mothers of children under age 18, 70.4 percent were in the labor force in 2004—down from 72.3 percent in 2000. Most of last year’s decline was accounted for by mothers of kids younger than 6: “their rate declined by 1.0 percentage points, to 61.8 percent.” For married mothers, the rate slipped by 0.8 percentage points last year, to 67.8 percent. Nonetheless, paid employment remains (by a slight margin) more the rule than the exception even for mothers of very young children: Among all mothers of kids younger than one year old, 52.9 percent were in the labor force last year. And that includes 51.7 percent of married mothers of infants, though this number has declined by 3.0 percentage points since its peak in 2002.

Can it be that Americans are becoming more fiscally responsible? In a survey by ACNielsen, adults who have cash to spare after covering their basic living expenses said they’re most likely to use it to reduce their debt or to augment their nest eggs (or both). Still, more than one-fourth of the respondents confessed that they’re tapped out once they have covered their “essential living expenses” (see the chart below). Needless to say, though, consumers have widely varying notions of what constitutes an “essential” expense.

Sure, it’s the stars and stripes. But how many stars and how many stripes? In a poll conducted prior to Flag Day by SurveyUSA, 91 percent of respondents correctly said the American flag has 50 stars. (You knew that June 14 was Flag Day, right?) Somewhat fewer (78 percent) knew the flag has 13 stripes. The poll was commissioned by An Old Glory*ous Celebration, a project of shopping malls and veterans groups (initiated by The Macerich Co.) that arranged for ceremonies and flag displays at malls around the country.

Horrified by how much time your kids spend playing Nintendo? Maybe they’ll grow out of it—at which point they’ll start pestering you to buy them a Hummer. In a survey by Decision Analyst in conjunction with Hypothesis, youngsters age 8-12 were asked to identify what they see as the three “coolest” brands, as were kids age 13-17. The younger respondents gave the highest vote totals to Nintendo (42 percent), Disney (36 percent) and McDonald’s (31 percent). The 13-17s gave top honors to Nike (26 percent), with Hummer as runner-up (23 percent); Abercrombie, Sony and Nintendo tied for third place (21 percent apiece).