The Technology Generation Gap in the Workplace
Published on: 15th April 2009
A national survey of American white collar workers found that while technology is widely embraced among working professionals, significant gaps exist among generations regarding its use and application in the workplace. The survey - commissioned by LexisNexis examined the impact of technology in the workplace. It compared technology and software usage among generations of working professionals, including Boomers (ages 44-60), Generation X (ages 29-43) and Generation Y (ages 28 and younger).
Impact on Office Etiquette
According to the survey, there are vast discrepancies between generations on what the appropriate use of technology and software is, potentially causing tensions in the workplace. For example, while over two-thirds of all Boomers agree that Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs, such as BlackBerries, Palm Treos) and mobile phones contribute to a decline in proper workplace etiquette, and believe the use of a laptop during in-person meetings is "distracting," less than half of Gen Y workers agree.
Only seventeen percent of Boomers believe using laptops or PDAs during in-person meetings is "efficient," while more than one third of Gen Y do.
Only twenty-eight percent of Boomers think blogging about work-related issues is acceptable, while forty percent of Gen Y workers do.
Blurred Boundaries Between Work & Home
According to the survey's findings, new technologies have blurred the lines between personal and professional tasks - especially online technologies such as blogs and social networking sites. The survey found:
- Gen Y workers spend an average of 10.6 hours a day accessing social networking sites, news Web sites, blogs, Internet forums, and multimedia sharing Web sites, versus 5.6 hours reported by Boomers.
- Sixty-two percent of Gen Y professionals report accessing a social networking site from work, versus only fourteen percent of Boomers.
- Thirty nine-percent of Gen Y workers report using gaming programs at work, versus fourteen percent of Boomers.
According to the survey, more than half of working professionals believe that the amount of technology available encourages "too much" multi-tasking. Respondents were asked to report on how much time they spent on each of four types of applications in an average work day (e-mail; internet browsers, instant messaging, and Microsoft Office).
The average time reported for "using" each application every day added up to a total of 15.9 hours, far exceeding the standard 8-hour work day. This suggests that workers keep many different applications open at the same time, and access them concurrently.
The multi-tasking phenomenon has a dramatic generational skew, with Gen Y logging a cumulative total of 22.9 hours across all these applications in a work day, versus 10.3 for Boomers.
"The results of the Technology Gap Survey suggest a real wake-up call for today's senior management - the Boomer generation," said Mike Walsh, CEO of LexisNexis U.S. Legal Markets. "In today's evolving professional world, Boomers need to acknowledge that a technology gap among generations exists, and they must find ways to maximize productivity by implementing effective workflow solutions and integrated resources that address the challenges they face."
Potential Solutions for Managers
Walsh said that in order for companies to ensure maximum efficiency and productivity, technologies that capitalize on these emerging trends should be implemented. He offered potential solutions, which include:
- Investing in technologies and workflow solutions that enhance workplace productivity rather than increase multi-tasking.
- Establishing clear guidelines around acceptable uses of technology in the workplace, as well as providing training on new technologies.
- Acknowledging and addressing the significant impact of social networking by investing in professional networking solutions.
"Managers can't stand on the sidelines," said Walsh. "They must provide their employees with guidelines, technologies and solutions that help address the needs and challenges of today."