The Technology Generation Gap at Work is Oh So Wide

Recently, business information solutions provider LexisNexis released the results of a study that examined how technology was used in the American workplace. The focus of the study was on the differing opinions between generational groups. Their findings? The generation gap at work is really wide with vast discrepancies when it comes to what the appropriate use of technology is – a problem that leads to increasing tensions in the workplace.

The Findings: Boomers and Gen Y are Worlds Apart at Work

The survey compared technology and software usage among generations of working professionals, including Boomers (ages 44-60), Generation X (ages 29-43) and Generation Y (ages 28 and younger). The total sample size was 700 legal and white collar professionals with 250 coming from the legal profession.

According to the survey:

  • Two-thirds of all Boomers agree that Personal Digital Assistants (like the Blackberry, for example) and mobile phones contribute to a decline in proper workplace etiquette, and believe the use of a laptop during in-person meetings is “distracting,” less than half of Gen Y workers agree.
  • Only 17% of Boomers believe using laptops or PDAs during in-person meetings is “efficient,” while more than one third of Gen Y do.
  • Only 28% percent of Boomers think blogging about work-related issues is acceptable, while forty percent of Gen Y workers do.

Yikes! Phones and PDAs are distracting and inefficient tools? Blogging is unacceptable? Who are these people? Unfortunately, they’re the people who still have a lot of power when it comes to the decisions being made at the workplace. Baby boomers are the executives, the CEOs, the bosses, etc. while Gen Y is just now getting their foot in the door. But it’s clear that these two generations strongly disagree on how technology is to be used.

More Findings

Another issue being faced is the blurring of boundaries between work and home. Gen Y workers generally don’t see a problem accessing personal web sites from work – like Facebook and blogs. In fact, 62% of Gen Y professionals access a social network from work, but only 14% of Boomers do. That discrepancy could have something to do with the fact that Gen Y spends a lot more of their day online – they spend 10.6 hours per day accessing social networks, news sites, blogs, forums, and multimedia sharing sites versus only 5.6 hours reported by Boomers.

The study also found that Gen Y workers multi-task at higher levels, but it’s here that the numbers get kind of confusing. According to the report, Gen Y workers spend an average of 22.9 hours per day using email, web browsers, IM, productivity applications while Boomers reported 10.3 hours with the same programs. But seriously, 22.9 hours? That begs the question: when does Gen Y eat or sleep? Who even stays up for 22.9 straight hours? The problem apparently comes from how the question was asked. Respondents were asked to report on how much time they spent on each of four types of applications in an average work day. The average time reported for “using” each application every day added up to a total of 15.9 hours, much longer than the standard 8-hour work day.

What this actually means is that workers are keeping many applications open at the same time and accessing them concurrently. (They’re not staying up 20-some hours each day to work). However, we think that data could have been presented in a more straightforward manner. Still, the end result proves that Gen Y switches back and forth between applications far more than the Boomers do.

Wait, So Do Boomers Get Tech or Not?

The last time we wrote about Boomers’ and their use of social media, we got a lot of heated responses in the comments about how “not all Boomers” are out-of-touch, so stop saying that! But actually, at the time, we weren’t. We were instead sharing data from Forrester which stated that over 60% of Boomers were using socially created content. Yet that study seems to be a bit in conflict with this one. How can the hip-to-blogs (and videos, and podcasts, etc.) Baby Boomers of the Forrester study exist in the same world as those interviewed by LexisNexis? Which study is right? Or maybe, in a way, they both are. Maybe the stuffy old lawyers interviewed for this latest study don’t care for blogs, but there are plenty of Boomers out there who do. We know from the comments of the last post that there are certainly plenty of Boomers who read this blog, at least. 

Image credit: Boomer: unclebumpy; Who’s going to Hire a Gen Y? Anthony Weate

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