Being able to connect to their offices remotely is a positive trend for the majority of U.S. workers, a new study finds.
Full-time U.S. employees are upbeat about using their computers and mobile devices to stay connected to the workplace outside of their normal working hours, with nearly 80 percent viewing it as a positive development, according to research from Gallup.
"Despite technology's tendency to blur the lines between employees' work hours and off-hours, most full-time workers in the U.S. take a positive view about using their devices to stay in touch with work after normal business hours," Gallup researchers wrote in the study.
While the vast majority of workers like having the ability to work off-hours remotely, far fewer are actually doing so. The study discovered that just 36 percent of employees frequently connect to their office via mobile devices or their home computer when they aren't on the clock.
The relatively low percentage who check in frequently outside of working hours nearly matches the 33 percent of full-time workers who say their employer expects them to check email and stay in touch remotely after the business day ends.
One of the most common ways workers stay connected is by checking their email. More than 85 percent of those surveyed said being able to keep tabs on their messages from home is a good thing.
"Even among employees for whom staying connected is compulsory, 81 percent view this development in a somewhat or strongly positive light," the researchers wrote.
The frequent checking of messages outside of work hours is more common among men than women, as well as among millennials and Gen Xers, compared with baby boomers. Additionally, employees with a college degree or higher are more than twice as likely to regularly check work email versus those with less than a college degree, and the highest earners are about twice as likely as the lowest to say they do the same.
"The education and income differences could reflect the greater likelihood of Americans in high education and income groups to be employed in white-collar or professional occupations where email communication is likely a more crucial aspect of the job," the study's authors wrote.
The study found that employees who report checking their email frequently spend nearly 10 hours a week working remotely, while those who don't check-in as often still put in four hours of work outside the office.
A big contributor to being able to work remotely is the prevalence of Web-enabled technology in U.S. workers' homes and lives. Gallup estimates 80 percent of full-time U.S. workers have a smartphone with Internet access, 87 percent have a laptop or desktop computer and 49 percent have a tablet.
"Nearly all workers say they have access to the Internet on at least one device, whether a smartphone, laptop, desktop or tablet, so it may be that they enjoy the convenience of easily checking in from home instead of putting in late hours at the office," the researchers wrote. "They may also appreciate the freedom this technology offers them to meet family needs, attend school events, or make appointments during the day, knowing they can monitor email while out of the office or log on later to catch up with work if needed."
The study's authors conclude that given that those who frequently check messages away from work also log twice as many hours remotely as those who occasionally, rarely, or never check email out of the office, enabling more employees to do so may play a role in increasing productivity.
The study was based on surveys of 3,865 U.S. workers employed full time.