Progress toward work-life separation, until sudden integration
I will admit to having recently used more than one cliché about these being “unprecedented times” or even that we’re headed towards a “new normal”.
When it comes to work-life balance, what was “normal” is all-too “precedented”. For years, PCs have enabled American employees to bring work home. Enabling is not always a positive characteristic, depending on one’s perspective. No sooner had employees scaled down their work at home, minimizing their commingled work and personal activities, then along came COVID-19.
Employees using Home PCs for work – a recent history
For decades, employees have slowly separating their personal and work lives. Step by step, application by application, employees had been using their home PCs for fewer and fewer work-related tasks. In the MetaFacts 2015 wave of TUP/Technology User Profile, we found that one in three US employees regularly used their home PCs for work email, one in five to search for work-related financial or other information, and one in six to manage work appointments or share files. By our 2019 wave, we found that home PC usage levels for these work activities had dropped to around two-thirds of these levels.
Now that six in ten US employees are working from home, and with almost half (49%) using a home-owned PC, their home PC is getting a lot of work-related use.
Which segment uses which device for their primary communication device more than a Smartphone or Basic cell phone?
None do, although one segment shows a counter trend. Mobile phones – especially Smartphones – are the primary communications devices for all age/employment segments. This has been a growing trend for the last several years, and 2014 marked the last year the PC was king for communications among any segment. In 2015, the last group to focus on mobile phones for their spoken, visual, and written communications activities was the segment of adults age 50 and above and who are not employed.
However, one segment has made a reversal of that phone-only trend. Employed adults age 18-39 have started to increase their use of PCs as their primary communications device. While mobile phones still lead, this shift may be surprising to some.
Looking more deeply into what this segment is doing by drilling down into the TUP activities data by device type, two activities stand out. Young employed adults are increasingly making web-based group meetings and video calls. From Slack to Skype and for work and personal matters, this segment is using these activities at nearly twice the national rate.
To be clear, the PC has not returned to primacy for communication among younger employed adults. However, collaboration has sparked some renewed life in the old workhorse.
This MetaFAQs research result addresses one of the many questions profiling active technology users.
Many other related answers are part of the full TUP service, available to paid subscribers. The TUP chapters with the most information about communication activities is the TUP 2016 Activities Chapter.
These MetaFAQs are brought to you by MetaFacts, based on research results from their most-recent wave of Technology User Profile (TUP).
There’s a cartoon making the rounds online about a FaceTiming family. While Mom and the teens can clearly see each other’s faces, Dad doesn’t seem to get it that holding the phone to his ear isn’t the best way to communicate using FaceTime or video calling.
Those of us who are facile with technology products – let’s not be hard on any new users. After all, activities like communication work best when everyone is involved.
Newer technology can be daunting, even those who are well-experienced with one type of technology may be new to another. Age alone does not define who is the most experienced or tech-savvy.
Presence of children is a contributing factor with technology adoption. Based on results from the most-recent wave of Technology User Profile, adults in households with children are more interested in wearable technology. Over half (52%) of adults in households with children agree or strongly agree with the statement “I would love to be the first to use wearable technology.” Adults in households without children aren’t as enthusiastic, with only one-third (33%) similarly agreeing.
Making video calls with services as Microsoft Skype, Apple FaceTime, ooVoo, Tango, Google Hangouts, or the like is done more often among households with kids present. Just over one third (34%) of all Connected Adults who use their devices to communicate make video calls. Among younger (18-39) employed adults with children in their household, well over half (57%) make video calls. Among older (40+) adults who aren’t employed without children present, the number is one-sixth (16%).
Even in one narrow type of activity – communications – there are a wealth of options. From social networking to email and voice or video calls, technology users have choices.
The top-third of the most broadly communicative among us use their Connected Devices for 7 or more types of communication activities – from email to voice calls, text messaging to video calls.
One of the biggest factors separating the most-active communicators from others is the presence of children, along with age and employment status.
Among adults age 40 and up, employed and with children in the household, 39% are in this most-active communicator group. By comparison, only one-fourth (25%) of those without children in the household are as active. The difference is even more striking among the 40+ who are not employed outside the home: One-third (33%) of those with children in the household are the most-active, versus only 13% of those without children.
Video calls and apps like FaceTime are just one mode of communications in active use. Not everyone uses the same mode of communication. While some of us favor email, others prefer text messaging.
For adults with children in the household, several communication activities are used more often than for similar adults without children.
Writing a blog or online journal is an activity for many more adults in households with children than among those without, at 24% and 14% of Connected Adults, respectively. For making video calls, the gap is slightly narrower at 9% – the difference between 47% of adults with kids and 28% of those without.
In households with any children age 5 and younger, adults use the broadest range of communication activities across their Connected Devices. Just over half (51%) use 7 or more types of communication activities, well above the one-third of Connected Adults this usage level represents.
It was a prescient Groucho Marx who once quipped: “A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five.”
Fortunately, over 63 million adults have children in their households. Whether or not those younger pioneers will be kind and show their elders how to use their devices to communicate remains to be seen. Whether anyone will ever develop an inter-generational translator, so that parents and teens can finally understand each other, is something perhaps too daunting for even the technology industry.
These results are based on the most recent wave of Technology User Profile, the TUP 2014 edition. The large-scale survey is in its 32nd continuous year, documenting and detailing the full scope of technology adoption and use. In addition to detailing the many devices adults use to connect and sizing targeted market segments, the survey-based research details what people do with their devices. It reports which activities adults primarily use with which device. For example, TUP reports which market segments use their Smartphones or Desktops as their primary communication device, as well as which devices are primarily for entertainment, shopping, social networking, and other types of activities.
Further results and datasets are available to TUP subscribers, including the full details on these technology users: which devices they intend to buy, which other devices they already actively use, the activities they’re doing and which device they do them with, their complete demographic profile, tech spending, wearable technology, and more.
Technology companies who want to know more about adults with or without children, video callers users, or about their current or future customers can contact MetaFacts to learn how to subscribe to the rich resources of Technology User Profile.
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