Relying heavily on mobile technology to stay connected to their work and personal lives is creating “mobile guilt” among professionals, who then resort to “shadow tasking,” according to a new global online survey of 3,521 professionals. 

Shadow tasking allows this new hyper-connected workforce—typically men 18-34 and parents with children at home under the age of 18—to use their smartphones or tablets to meet the demands of both worlds. It’s happening extensively across six countries—the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Japan and Spain.

Workers who shadow task embrace technology and workplace flexibility. Spanish employees, for example, are more likely than those in France, Germany, Japan, the U.S. or the U.K. to perform mobile work while eating, watching TV or lying in bed. U.S. and Spanish workers also are more likely to use their mobile devices for work while in the bathroom.

Members of “Generation Mobile”—so dubbed by enterprise mobility management vendor MobileIron, which commissioned the survey—are highly dependent on mobile technology for work and personal tasks. At least once a day during work hours:  

  • 60 percent check or send personal e-mail.
  • 57 percent send personal texts.
  • 53 percent make personal phone calls.
  • 50 percent check or use social media.

At least once a day during nonwork hours:

  • 51 percent check or send work e-mail.
  • 43 percent send work text messages.
  • 46 percent make work-related phone calls.
  • 34 percent look up work-related information.  

That level of connectedness is expected to increase with the advent of wearable technology. Among 42 percent of members of Generation Mobile who own or plan to purchase a wearable device, nearly all plan to use it for work. That includes taking calls; reading and writing e-mails; receiving alerts, such as meeting reminders; accessing their calendar; reading documents; and surfing the organization’s intranet.

However, even as they use their mobile devices for work, 58 percent feel guilty about it. Driving that guilt is a perception that, by mixing work and their personal lives, they are going against the norms of their culture, noted Ojas Rege, vice president of product at MobileIron.

The main takeaway, Rege said, is the need for “a policy rethink” by organizations.    

That includes:

  • Revisiting cultural norms and talking openly about shadow tasking. The organization should consider legitimate boundaries it wants to set. 
  • Understanding the decisions employees are making to be productive.
  • Agree on what goals need to be accomplished so that employees can hit their targets regardless of where work takes place.
  • Protecting business data without compromising the privacy of employees’ personal data, no matter who owns the smartphone or tablet.

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