The 72-Hour Workweek Is the New Norm, but Don't Blame Your Smartphone

By Brittany Ballenstedt

September 17, 2013

Has the number of hours you work per week increased in recent years? You may be inclined to blame your smartphone, according to a new study. 

A recent survey of 483 executive, managers and professionals by the Center for Creative Leadership found that 60 percent of those who carry smartphones for work are connected to their jobs 13.5 or more hours per day on weekdays and about five hours on weekends, for a total of 72 hours. This breaks down to employees spending 62 percent of their waking hours each week connected to work.

Still, the challenge here may have little to do with the technology. Most respondents surveyed did not seem to mind clocking those additional hours, with many saying they appreciate the ability to respond to urgent work requests while at home or on vacation, if only to help their colleagues and keep operations running smoothly.

Instead, what bothers many professionals is that their organizations are using this “always on” connectivity to mask poor processes, indecision, dysfunctional cultures and subpar infrastructure, the study found.

“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,” the report states. “But now, the stakes are higher as professionals begin to ask, ‘Where did my life go?’”

As a result, many professionals are having to use their personal time – and their smartphones – to make up for lost or wasted time at the office. The most common time-wasters cited by respondents were unnecessary emails (96 percent), poorly planned meetings (90 percent), unnecessary meetings (87 percent), and inadequate technology (78 percent).

The center advised organizations to evaluate these time wasters and calculate the costs of keeping the status quo. It may be more cost-effective to buy new computers or update technology systems, for example, than waste the valuable time of employees. More thorough meeting planning, better communication and/or hiring additional staff also could help alleviate some workers’ frustrations, the study noted.

“In the past, technological limitations largely prevented employees from paying the price for many organizational inefficiencies,” the report states. “Today, organizations have a new tool they can use to shift the costs of that wasted time to the individual. How to manage the demand for increased production without needing to be more efficient or hire more people? Issue EMPs smartphones, declare yours a ‘flexible workplace,’ and increase the workweek from 8/5 to 24/.7.”

As a federal employee, can you identify with some of the concerns cited by workers in the study? Has technology become the scapegoat for poor management and outdated processes?

Hat tip: Harvard Business Review

By Brittany Ballenstedt

September 17, 2013