While employers continue to equip employees with an array of increasingly high-tech online tools like cloud storage and time tracking software, two staples — the Internet and email — remain the most important to today's workers, new research finds.
Email and the Internet are deemed the most important communication and information tools among employees who have online access at work, according to a study from the Pew Research Center. Specifically, 61 percent of the workers surveyed said email is very important to their job, and 54 percent cited the Internet as their most important tool.
"What is potentially surprising 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," the study's authors wrote. "Since taking hold a generation ago, email has not loosened its grip on the American workplace."
Among those surveyed, email and the Internet are particularly important to those who work in traditionally office-based occupations, such as professionals, executives, managers, business owners and clerical workers. Additionally, these tools are critical for the nearly 60 percent of workers who work outside of the their office at least occasionally, the survey found.
The research also revealed that, despite the popularity of cellphones, landline phones are more critical for employees. Thirty-five percent of those surveyed think the landline phone is very important to their job, compared to just 24 percent who said the same about cellphones. [Checking Email During Meetings? It's Not OK ]
While many employers may worry about the distractions of digital technologies, many workers believe these tools are boosting their productivity. Just 7 percent of the employees surveyed said they think their productivity has dropped because of the Internet, email and cellphones, while 46 percent said they feel more productive due to these tools.
The benefits employees see from these tools include expanding the number of people they communicate with outside of their company, working more flexible hours and increasing the number of hours they actually work.
"Each of these effects is felt more among office-based workers than among traditionally blue-collar, non-office-based employees," the study's authors wrote.
As employees become more reliant on the Internet, employers are placing more restrictions on how it can be used. Just less than half of those surveyed said their employer blocks access to certain websites and has rules about what employees can say or post online. That percentage has more than doubled since 2006.
The study, which was authored by Kristen Purcell, associate director for research at Pew Research Center's Internet Project,and Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center's Internet Project, was based on surveys of 535 adult Internet users who are employed full-time or part-time.