Mobile workers health threatened by spending weekends online

iPass survey find that a third of workers spend up to 20 weekend hours working online

A new survey found 63% of mobile workers are spending at least six hours each weekend online -- and nearly one-third are online for up to 20 hours over the two days.

The findings pose a potential health dilemma for workers and employers, since the weekend hours extend a busy work week and keep employees from getting a needed retreat.

The survey of 1,678 mobile workers at 1,100 worldwide enterprises was conducted between Sept. 27 and Oct. 19 by commercial Wi-Fi network provider iPass.

In a 22-page summary of the survey results, iPass said that the prolonged weekend online work "could have health consequences, particularly if these mobile employees are sitting while they're online."

Australian researchers, iPass said, have found that sitting for extended periods of time increases the risk of death. Doctors recommend that people who spend the workday sitting "make an extra effort to be active during their leisure time," iPass said in the summary.

The iPass study also found that even when mobile workers take a breather, most don't go longer than four hours without turning to at least a smartphones to access the Internet -- and work tasks.

The study also found that mobile workers (those on laptops, smartphones and tablets) consider workplace necessities, such as a deluge of email, to be distractions. IPass recommended that IT shops find ways to limit workplace online distractions, noting that some workplaces have instituted email-free days and meeting-free days.

The iPass study, conducted every quarter, has found that the percentage of respondents using their own smartphones for work tasks has increased from 42% in the fall of 2011 to 46% in the fall of 2012. The company said that the percentage of phones provisioned by employers dropped from 58% to 33% over the same period.

Respondents ranked the cost of making a network connection as the least important factor when choosing a mobile network, which could create a "bill shock" for businesses without Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) cost-control policies.

The rapid growth of BYOD is both increasing worker productivity and increasing corporate costs, noted Evan Kaplan, CEO of iPass.

"This report shows [employees] are willing to connect with little regard for cost," Kaplan said. "This lack of cost sensitivity has the potential to dramatically impact corporate budgets."

IPass recommended IT shops find cost-effective connections wherever workers roam.

The survey found that Apple's iPhone remains the most popular smartphone among workers, used by 53% of the mobile workforce, up from 45% in 2011. Android phone use also increased to 34% of workers, up from 21%.

Use of the Research in Motion BlackBerry smartphone decreased over he past year, from 32% of workers to 26%. Windows Phone-based devices were used by just 5% of mobile workers in the latest survey.

For tablets, 59% of mobile workers said they expect to rely on tablets more in the coming year, and that iPad would remain the top preference of 54%.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

Read more about mobile/wireless in Computerworld's Mobile/Wireless Topic Center.

Tags Mobile/WirelessNetworkingiPasswirelessinternetIT managementmobilestaff management

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