TECHNOLOGY  HEIGHTENS  GENERATION  GAPS  AT  WORK

MANILA, JULY 1, 2009 (STAR)  By Alma Buelva - How you perceive and use technology at work could reveal your age. In a recent market survey conducted by WorldOne Research they discovered that age plays a big factor in the way professionals today embrace technology at work.

A huge gap among three different generations of workers exists today when it comes to technology adoption. Based on the Lexis/Nexis Technology Gap Survey, the Baby Boomers, workers born in 1964 or earlier, consistently reported less passion for technology at the workplace compared to those classified under Gen Y, workers born from 1980 or later, who voraciously use the latest technologies all the time. Between these two groups is the Gen X, people born between 1965 and 1979 who generally use gadgets and online tools in moderation, the survey shows.

Although the survey was conducted in the United States, the results easily mirror workplace conditions in other countries like the Philippines where young professionals bond with new technologies faster and stronger than their older counterparts.

All the 700 survey respondents use technology and software at their jobs, with almost 100 percent penetration of the most important forms of hardware and software; 100 percent use either a laptop or desktop or both, 100 percent use e-mail and calendar programs, and 94 percent use an Internet browser.

All of them also agree that new technology and software applications have made it easier to get up-to-the-minute information (95 percent agree), perform research (94 percent agree), improve productivity (90 percent) and manage information (87 percent). In addition, 88 percent of the respondents think that devices such as laptops, PDAs and mobile phones make people significantly more productive.

However, it is the frequency and the variety by which the three age groups use technology at the workplace that create the generation gaps. For example, the survey found that the most junior workers (Gen Y — aged under 28) and even Gen X workers (aged 29-43) use a far wider range of software and programs on the Internet at work than the most senior workers (Boomers aged 44 to 60).

The use of programs and software for personal tasks while in the office is even more pronounced among the younger generation. Almost three times as many Gen Y workers (39 percent) report using gaming programs at work than Boomers (14 percent). In addition, 62 percent of Gen Y respondents report accessing a social networking site from work versus only 14 percent of Boomers.

Also, 47 percent of Gen Yers access Internet bulletin boards and forums from work versus 27 percent of Boomers. About 44 percent of Gen Yers access multimedia-sharing websites from work versus 24 percent of Boomers.

On the other hand, only 35 percent of Boomers say they use music-playing software at work versus 60 percent of Xers and 58 percent of Yers. Twice as many Gen Y workers use video-playing programs at work (51 percent) compared to Boomers (25 percent). Also, 49 percent of Gen Y respondents use photo-editing programs at work versus 28 percent of Boomers.

Tech magnets

Gen Y workers are practically glued to their PCs, PDAs and mobile phones. They spend an average of 17.4 hours in a day using any of these devices, whereas, Boomers report spending just 9.7 hours in a day using the same devices.

Perhaps partly a reflection of their seniority, Boomers cite significantly less time using all devices, except personal computers. Gen Y claims to be the heaviest device users overall.

Additionally, Gen Y workers multi-task at even higher levels than the other generations as evidenced by the amount of hours in each workday that they report accessing various devices and programs. And this is especially the case for programs and websites that may not be strictly work-related.

The survey found the Gen Y group spending an average of 20.5 work hours using e-mail programs, Internet browsers, instant messaging programs and Microsoft Office programs. Boomers, on the other hand, only report spending 11.9 work hours using the same programs.

Gen Y and Gen X professionals also report spending an average of 8.52 and 8.09 hours of every workday accessing social networking websites, news websites, blogs, Internet forums and multimedia-sharing websites, versus 4.78 hours reported by Boomers.

Etiquette

While over two thirds (68 percent) of all Boomers agree that PDAs and mobile phones contribute to a decline in proper workplace etiquette, less than half (46 percent) of Gen Y workers think so. The same number of Boomers feels the use of a laptop or PDA during in-person meetings is “distracting,” but less than half (49 percent) of Gen Y workers think so.

Additionally, while only 17 percent of Boomers think using laptops or PDAs during in-person meetings is “efficient,” over one-third (35 percent) of Gen Yers think it is.

More Gen Yers (41 percent) than Boomers (28 percent) believe it is acceptable to blog about work-related issues. And while almost half of Gen Y workers (47 percent) think it’s acceptable to befriend a client on a social networking site, only 24 percent of Boomers do. Majority of Gen Y (76 percent) respondents also feel it is appropriate to befriend a colleague on a social networking site, which is opposed by 38 percent of Boomers.

Productivity be damned

Too much of a good thing could also be bad. The Gen Y workers know this as they exhibit the most concern at how unrestricted use of software, hardware and the Internet at work may not be good for their own workplace productivity.

This is especially so for websites that can blur the boundaries between their personal and professional lives. Thus, 32 percent of Boomers think the Internet can decrease workplace productivity, whereas 50 percent of Gen Y workers think this is the case.

A quarter of the respondents from the Gen Y say that social networking and multimedia-sharing websites decrease their productivity at work, something that is almost a non-issue among Boomers. Only seven percent of Gen X respondents report feeling less productive at work due to social networking websites.

Furthermore, 15 percent of Yers think that blogs decrease their workplace productivity, versus only one percent of Boomers and four percent of Gen Xers.

Half of Gen Y respondents also agree that personal devices such as BlackBerrys and mobile phones encourage too much multi-tasking.

In discovering divergent ideas about what is and is not an appropriate use of technology and software in workplace, the survey proponents believe such could contribute to in-office tensions and even harm teamwork and productivity.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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