IT’S 3 am. Do you know where your mobile phone or tablet is? Of course you do. It’s in the bedroom somewhere, probably within reach on a bedside bureau. In a recent survey of a few thousand business travellers, 38% of respondents admitted to actually reaching for it occasionally. A disturbing 8% checked at least once in the middle of every night.
The firm that conducted the survey, iPass, points out that these average figures hide significant demographic differences. Business folk in the Asia-Pacific region, for instance, with their indefatigable work style, were twice as likely as Europeans to check in the wee hours (60% against 30%). Americans ranked neatly in the middle at 45%. The young (22 to 34 years of age) were 25% to 40% more likely to wake and tap their phone or tablet than more senior folk. (Despite being American, and not that old, your correspondent is clearly more like an aged European in this regard; his smartphone and tablet are three rooms away when darkness sets in.)
None of this comes as a surprise. But it is rather perturbing to see the numbers in the light of day. Frequent business travellers, often jet-lagged and sleepless, may find psychological succour of sorts in groggily retrieving e-mail or re-reading a forthcoming presentation. Half the survey’s respondents expect to spend 30 days or more on the road this year. Yet iPass did not ask specifically about habits away from home, but about general behaviour.
The firm also wondered why people act the way they do (respondents were allowed to give more than one answer). And so, an absent-minded 36% either forget to change the alert settings and “it pings” – or worse, want a noise to alert them while slumbering. A third blamed working with people outside their country; the same proportion claimed they were working on something important that requires their attention. As many as 36% were simply unable to sleep. Most worryingly, perhaps, over a fifth check “out of habit”.
The surveyed group exhibit disturbing proclivities during daytime, too. Nine in ten fiddle with their smartphone during so-called downtime, and 7% check for e-mail or use apps ten times an hour when they should be doing something else. Compared with previous surveys, iPass notes an uptick in such obsessive behaviours.
These habits spill over into other areas. Asked whether mobile technology interfered with their personal relationships, 29% of the respondents said yes. This being a highly personal question, one expects the honest number to be even higher.
Many jobs now demand constant connectedness, leaving little space for life outside of work. Indeed, while 64% of those asked said it was unacceptable to take a call in a public toilet, 29% confessed to talking on the loo. The line between work and private life has to be drawn somewher. At the toilet door, perhaps?