The newly released Technology Gap Survey found generational differences in the effect of technology on workplace etiquette, the blurring boundaries between personal and professional tasks, and the impact of technology overload.
The survey – commissioned by LexisNexis, a leading provider of content-enabled workflow solutions – examined the impact of technology in the legal workplace. It compared technology and software usage among generations of legal professionals, including Boomers (ages 44-60), Generation X (ages 29-43) and Generation Y (ages 28 and younger).
Impact on Office Etiquette
According to the survey, there are vast discrepancies between generations on what the appropriate use of technology and software is, potentially causing tensions in the legal workplace. For example: While seventy-five percent of all Boomers agree that Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs, such as BlackBerries, Palm Treos) and mobile phones contribute to a decline in proper workplace etiquette, and believe the use of a laptop during in-person meetings is “distracting,” only forty-four percent of Gen Y legal professionals agree.
- While only twenty-three percent of Boomers believe using laptops or PDAs during in-person meetings is “efficient,” nearly half of Gen Y legal professionals think it is.
- Only twenty-seven percent of Boomer legal professionals think blogging about work-related issues is acceptable, compared to fifty-two percent of Gen Y legal professionals.
Blurred Boundaries Between Work & Home
According to the survey’s findings, new technologies have blurred the lines between personal and professional tasks – especially online technologies such as blogs and social networking sites. The survey found:
- Fifty-five percent of Gen Y and forty percent of Gen X report accessing a social networking site from work, versus only thirteen percent of Boomers.
- Fifty-two percent of Gen Y legal professionals think it is appropriate to “befriend” a colleague on a social networking site, compared to only twenty percent of Boomers.
According to the survey, more than half of working professionals believe that the amount of technology available encourages “too much” multi-tasking. Respondents were asked to report on how much time they spent on each of four types of applications in an average work day (e-mail; internet browsers, instant messaging, and Microsoft Office). The average time reported for “using” each application every day added up to a total of 16.2 hours, far exceeding the standard 8-hour work day.
- This suggests that workers keep many different applications open at the same time, and access them concurrently.
- The multi-tasking phenomenon has a dramatic generational skew, with Gen Y logging a cumulative total of 20.5 hours across all these applications in a work day, versus 11.9 for Boomers.
“The results of the Technology Gap Survey suggest a real wake-up call for today’s senior management – the Boomer generation,” said Mike Walsh, CEO of LexisNexis U.S. Legal Markets. “In today’s evolving professional world, Boomers need to acknowledge that a technology gap among generations exists, and they must find ways to maximize productivity by implementing effective workflow solutions and integrated resources that address the challenges they face.”
Potential Solutions for Managers
Walsh said that in order for companies and law firms to ensure maximum efficiency and productivity, technologies that capitalize on these emerging trends should be implemented. He offered potential solutions, which include:
- Investing in technologies and workflow solutions that enhance workplace productivity rather than increase multi-tasking.
- Establishing clear guidelines around acceptable uses of technology in the workplace, as well as providing training on new technologies.
- Acknowledging and addressing the significant impact of social networking by investing in professional networking solutions.
“Managers can’t stand on the sidelines,” said Walsh. “They must provide their employees with guidelines, technologies and solutions that help address the needs and challenges of today.”
About the LexisNexis Technology Gap Survey
The Technology Gap Survey was commissioned by LexisNexis. WorldOne Research, an international market research agency specializing in the collection and analysis of data for leading organizations, conducted this survey of 250 legal professionals. Findings are available online at (www.lexisnexis.com/media/pdfs/LexisNexis-Technology-Gap-Survey-4-09.pdf).