Smartphones encourage users to work longer hours

A survey by Nucleus Research on the productivity impact of mobile devices found that employees with smartphones tend to work longer hours.

Employees with smartphones work longer days and tend to be available for business communication during more hours of the day.

The average user equipped with a smartphone works 71 additional minutes per day, or 15% more per week, according to a Nucleus Research survey. The survey also found that the average mobile user first checks in on his device at 7:10 a.m. and last checks his device at 10:00 p.m.

"I think it's no surprise that people work more because they have a mobile device," said Rebecca Wettemann, vice president at Nucleus Research. "I think what is surprising is the amount of time people work. There is an expectation being set that we are always available, even on vacation or after hours."

This survey was aimed at quantifying the productivity gains that companies experience from mobile device deployments, Wettemann said. The majority of the survey's 230 respondents were BlackBerry users with a small number of Treo and Nokia users and a smaller number of iPhone users.

The survey also polled users about what they use their devices for. Ninety-six percent said they use them to access email or instant messaging, and 74% use them for work-related Web access. The survey found that a high percentage of users are accessing CRM (70%) and business intelligence (65%) applications.

"I think we'll see more around access to CRM and business intelligence (BI) as users become more comfortable and there are better CRM and BI interfaces for mobile devices," Wettemann said.

Some CIOs said they have had a hard time quantifying productivity gains from mobile devices, but they know those gains are there.

"It's hard to quantify productivity, but it's easy to understand it," said Michael Pate, CIO of Complete Production Services Inc., an oilfield services company.

Pate supports a sizable population of BlackBerry users. Of his company's 7,000 employees, 2,000 are office-based workers. Many of them spend time out in the field with the company's field workers, so 350 of them have BlackBerrys. Pate refers to his BlackBerry users as "in and out" people who split their time evenly between the office and the field. Connectivity and real-time access to email are critical to them.

"So does a mobile device cause them to work more hours per week? Well, kind of -- yes," he said. "These are people who would already work more hours because they have to go out in the field and check on jobs and stuff. But, to us, we consider that it saves us time, because if he's in the field and not connected, then when he gets back to the house and does email, he would spend that much more time doing work, and it directly affects an employee's happiness."

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Bruce Blitch, CIO of fertilizer manufacturer Tessenderlo Kerley Inc., has never polled his company's mobile workers to determine whether they're working longer hours, but that isn't an important issue for him, he said.

"I think it's more of a question of them having more hours within which to work than working more hours," Blitch said. "The distinction is perhaps subtle, but important. Trying to arrive at some number of minutes more an employee is working because they have a smartphone misses the point. It is the flexibility that has the greater value, not necessarily any lengthening of the workday."

Blitch said his company does business globally so his employees need to be in constant communication without being tied to desktops or having to wait for laptops to boot up. His mobile workers use HTC Smartphone to speed up critical communications so that issues that once took hours for mobile workers to address can be resolved in minutes.

"Just a few days ago, I woke up in Phoenix at 2 a.m. and couldn't go back to sleep because of an issue on my mind," Blitch said. "I sent a text message to our CEO who was on the floor of a conference in the Middle East. We exchanged a few text messages and resolved the issue. That exchange would have been nearly impossible just a few years ago within the same time frame without the immediacy and convenience of smartphones."

Nucleus also found that employees use their mobile devices for personal applications. Eighty-one percent admitted to using their devices for personal instant messaging, 69% used them for email and 53% played games on them.

"Is that OK?" Wettemann wondered. "If they're working more, that's up to the individual to determine that. But if you're checking in at 7:10 and checking out at 10:00 at night, it's probably OK to see if the kids got home from school."

Pate said his company has no policy against personal use of its BlackBerrys.

"In fact, we come as close as possible to encouraging it because we believe it's a time saver, so that they can have a family life," he said. "If they can use it to contact their family while they're out on the road, then more power to them."

"Our corporate use policy permits personal usage to the extent that it does not impinge on business," Blitch said. "We are becoming at least as much, if not more, connected in our personal lives as we are in our professional lives. To not allow for those two communications needs to co-exist would be to deny one of the main drivers of the technology and infrastructure that benefits both our personas."

Let us know what you think about this story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Editor

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