Technology

Tech Overload? Gen Y Workers Are Feeling It, Study Says

By Emma Beck / Oct 7, 2013 (iStock/Thinkstock)

Technology’s to thank for our habit of endless multitasking. But as a recent survey finds, constant connection overwhelms half of the workforce—especially Gen Y employees.

The always-on, forever-connected millennials are no stranger to work overload. In fact, they experience it more than most, a recent survey finds.

Some 58 percent of Gen Y respondents reported feeling overloaded in today’s hyper-connected workplace, according to the “State of Workplace Productivity Report,” released by Cornerstone OnDemand [PDF]. In contrast, 48 percent of older workers (Gen X, baby boomers, and “traditionalists” ages 68 and older) reported the same.

Roughly four out of 10 millennials traced overload to too much information; 38 percent cited technology, the report states. Information overload affected 31 percent of older workers, and only two out of 10 cited technology overload.

A study from the American Psychological Association (APA) found that 60 percent of Gen Y employees will check their messages daily during nonwork hours. That’s significantly more than the 43 percent of employees ages 45 to 54 who do the same, the APA reported. Gen Y might be wired for constant connection, but could it also be that they have too much unstructured access to work technology?

I spy… too much tech

Peer over the cubicle walls and note the desktops, spot the laptops, and tally up the smartphones or tablets.

According to the survey’s findings, of the employees who use technology for work purposes,

  • 76 percent use a desktop
  • 43 percent use a laptop
  • 36 percent use a smartphone
  • 15 percent use a tablet

But not at all technology workers use is provided by the employer. Half of Gen Y employees use their own smartphones for work, the report notes; two out of 10 bring their own tablet. Mosey on over to the Gen X, baby boomer, and traditionalist desks, and you’ll find only one in 10 using their own tablets and 23 percent using a personal smartphone for work.

While 56 percent of millennials bring in their own devices, most employers offer no policy for how to use personal technology for work purposes, the survey finds.

And so the questions remain: What technology can your organization provide, and how can you best steer its use to promote smoother office processes?

Balancing act

Overload can make productivity suffer, in the same away that multitasking can, if properly implemented, promote efficiency. The balance lies in, well, balance.

“Today’s workers are desperate to simplify the chaos,” Cornerstone OnDemand writes in a summary of the study. “[E]mployers can use these insights to… close the gap between the types of technology organizations provide and what employees truly need in order to stay productive and perform at their very best.”

That doesn’t mean getting rid of technology.  More than half of employees say they’d use wearable tech if it helped them get their job done—and  66 percent of millennials are game to try. (Hear that Google Glass? Here’s to the future of glogging.)

But it also doesn’t mean replacing all traditional work processes with digital forms. Only about three in 10 millennials favor online collaboration, and 6 percent like phone or video conferencing. In contrast, 60 percent of millennials prefer in-person collaboration; 72 percent of workers across all age groups report the same. Gen Y is more tech-connected than most, but as it turns out they’re not all that different from the rest of the workforce.

These findings suggest that millennials may have grown up with their thumbs glued to their smartphones, but they—more than most—bear the weight of technology and information overload. These are the future leaders of your organization. Understanding them now is crucial to best preparing them for tomorrow.

Emma Beck

Emma Beck is a contributor to Associations Now. More »

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