Life On The Job Is Life Online

According to Pew Research, the internet and cell phones have infiltrated every cranny of American workplaces, and digital technology has reshaped new pathways to information and new avenues of selling goods and services. For most office workers now, life on the job means life online.

Most Important Tools for Online Workers

Important Tool

% of Respondents





Landline phone


Cell or smartphone


Social networking sites


Source: Pew Research, January 2015

Pew Research surveyed online adults who also have full- or part-time jobs in any capacity. The most recent survey data from Pew Research in late 2013 shows that 94% of jobholders are internet users and they work in enterprises from technology companies to non-technology firms; from big corporations to small proprietor operations; and from those in urban areas, farms, and places in between.

Some of the key findings are:

  • Email and the internet are deemed the most important communications and information tools among online workers
  • The high value of email comes despite the challenges of the past generation, including threats like spam and phishing and competitors like social media and texting. Surprisingly, landline phones outrank cell phones for these internet-using workers. Social media is very low in importance
  • According to this study, email and the internet are particularly important to adults who work in traditionally “white collar,” office-based occupations such as professionals, executives, managers, business owners, and clerical workers. They are also critical for the 59% of employed online adults who take their jobs outside of the physical boundaries of the workplace at least occasionally

What is potentially surprising, says the report, is that even in the face of constantly evolving forms of digital communication, potential threats like phishing, hacking and spam, and dire warnings about lost productivity and email overuse, email continues to be the main digital artery that workers believe is important to their jobs.

While commentators worry that digital tools can be a distraction in the workplace, many online workers say that is not the case when it comes to their productivity.

Just 7% of working online adults feel their productivity has dropped because of the internet, email and cell phones, while 46% feel more productive.

  • 46% of respondents say the Internet has had no impact on their work productivity
  • Another 46% say the Internet has made them more productive at work
  • Just 7% say the Internet has made them less productive at work

51% of respondents say the Internet, email, and cell phones have increased their communication with people outside of their company. 35% say these tools have increased the amount of time they spend working.

Office-based workers have felt the effects of the Internet, email, and cell phones more deeply: They are more than twice as likely as non-office-based workers to say these tools have given them more flexibility in the hours they work, but also have increased the amount of time spent working.

Respondents Who Say The Internet, Email And Call Phones:


Office Based Workers

Non Office Based Workers

Expand the number of people outside of your company you communicate with



Allow more flexibility in the hours you work



Increase the amount of time you spend working



Source: Pew Research, January 2015

Each of these effects is felt more among Office-Based workers than among traditionally blue collar, Non-Office-Based employees.

Employers are likewise changing practices regarding employees’ use of the internet, says the report. Just under half of those surveyed say their employer blocks access to certain websites (46%) and has rules about what employees can say or post online (46%). The latter figure has more than doubled since Pew Research began asking about company rules about employees’ online presentation in 2006.

In contrast, among workers in traditionally Non-Office-Based professions such as service, skilled and semi-skilled positions, fairly high percentages say they are not sure if their employer controls employees’ website access (29%) or has rules about what employees do online (35%).

Sampling error for the subsample of working adults is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence.

For additional information from Pew Research, please visit here.

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