The use of smartphones to stay connected to work 24/7 is so common that it’s now considered the “new normal.” People are fatigued and angry about being always on and never done; the lines between their personal and professional lives blurred if not completely eliminated. But our groundbreaking research has uncovered some surprising information about the drivers and the impacts of this new normal.

We’ve found that professionals, managers, and executives who carry smartphones for work report interacting with work a whopping 13.5 hours every workday, (72 hours per week including weekend work). We’ve also found that, on average, they have only about 3 hours on workdays for “discretionary” activities such as being with their family, exercising, showering, and all of those chores at home that someone has to do. Startlingly, they don’t blame technology for this dilemma that has them scrambling to manage their personal lives. They blame their companies — specifically, poor process, people- and time- management that is robbing them of their equilibrium and ability to recharge.

In essence, technology and the “always on” expectations of professionals enable organizations to mask poor processes, indecision, dysfunctional cultures, and subpar infrastructure because they know that everyone will pick up the slack. Can’t make a decision? Call another meeting to “process.” Have a fear-based culture? Copy a bazillion people on every e-mail so your backside is covered. Can’t manage time properly? Keep staff waiting for a decision and they’ll just work all night to make the deadline. This creates meeting and e-mail overload and institutional churn so overwhelming that even the most adept manager has trouble keeping his/her head above water.

So while technology may be a logical scapegoat, it is actually just a new-age mask for an age-old problem: poor management and poor leadership. But now, the stakes are higher as professionals begin to ask, “Where did my life go?”

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