Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

Smart mobile devices are reinventing the average Australian’s workday with almost 50 per cent saying they are doing work after they get home. What's surprising is the percentage of people that say they don’t mind being contacted by work 24/7.

cartoon image of people using technology

Work more, play the same

For example, 30 per cent of Australians check work emails on devices at home before they leave for the office; 23 per cent conduct work activities while socialising; 44 per cent are doing work-related activities after they get home; and 38 per cent work on the weekend. The surprise, however, is that this has not been at the expense of leisure time.

Indeed, 53 per cent play on their devices while at work, dipping in and out of gaming, watching videos, shopping online, browsing blogs, and checking or updating social media. As the study notes, it is a complete departure from the way life was lived as little as five years ago. “Social context and location no longer determine what we do,” it says. “Two-thirds of people use productivity apps to get things done throughout their day and three-quarters of Aussies believe technology has made their life easier.” Australians are also starting to question the cultural norms around “presenteeism” – the need to be highly visible at work to signify you’re contributing.

While most white collar workers (70 per cent) are still doing the majority of their work from the office, flexible, collegiate ways of working are eroding the command-and-control style relationships between managers and team members. As a result, expect to see even greater emphasis on trust, autonomy and accountability at work.

Our devices have become much more than just utility products – they’re the nerve centres of our lives.

- Steve Miller, Microsoft

How long until offices are outdated?

In fact, one in three Australians believe that within the next 10 years they will no longer have any need go into the office.

In the meantime, although the average Australian still spends 48 minutes commuting to and from work each day, buses and trains have turned into productivity zones. According to the Life on Demand report, 46 per cent of Australians spend their commute on work/study activities and 32 per cent check work/study emails. Online banking is done by 19 per cent. Predictably, 18-35s are at the forefront when it comes to embracing technology as a productivity tool. An overwhelming 76 per cent use productivity apps to help manage their time, while 39 per cent don’t mind being contactable by work 24/7.

Nonetheless, the rise and rise of smart devices has some downsides, according to study participants. Initial screen-time enthusiasm is waning “After an incredibly fast rate of adoption and what could be described as a period of enthusiastic ‘binging’ on devices, some are starting to take a step back and reflect on the social and emotional impact of all this screen time,” the study states. The sheer ubiquity of screens is causing some people to feel conflicted, with 35 per cent reporting they are sometimes overwhelmed by all the technology in their lives. Notably, 72 per cent believe the devices have created a culture of “right now” – an expectation that all emails and texts should receive an instant response.

What does the future hold?

Regardless, the great majority of Australians (79 per cent) still think there’s room for more, and experts agree that we’re going to become increasingly dependent on the technology in the future. “Our devices have become much more than just utility products – they’re the nerve centres of our lives,” says Microsoft office division head, Steven Miller. “I think we’ve really only scratched the surface of what we can do with our devices using apps.” Apps are the creative tools of the future Curator of the Vivid Ideas and TedX events in Sydney, Jess Scully, agrees: “We’re going to see more creative tools in the form of apps that extend the utility of devices so they become instruments for creativity, rather than just instruments of broadcast and consumption.”

Head of Australian technology research firm Telsyte, Foad Fadaghi, also notes in the study: “Once only multinationals could collaborate on a global scale. Now [anyone] with a device can connect with other people around the world to share ideas and create new things. The implications for how we do business and innovation are huge.” Finally, The Future Laboratory, which first predicted and coined the “bleisure” trend, says: “The growing use of the virtual will still drive us back to the live and the real.” On that, we’ll just have to wait and see.

A connected future

By 2015, 37 per cent of the world’s labour force – or 1.3 billion people – will identify as mobile workers. One trillion networked devices will be connected worldwide by 2025.
Source: Global technology research firm, IDC

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