Despite the popular perception that people waste time at work browsing the Web and playing online games, many Americans say the Internet makes them more productive.
A new survey by the Pew Research Center found that 46 percent of workers say the Internet increases productivity, compared with just 7 percent who say it hurts output.
Lee Rainie, the director of Internet, science and technology research at the Pew Research Center, said more than a third of workers report working longer hours because of technology.
“They answer emails at night after they’ve left the office; they work sometimes on the weekends,” he said. “Sometimes, they are contacted by their employers even when they are on vacation.”
At the same time, a similar number report having greater flexibility with their jobs.
When asked which technological tools are most important, email was the clear winner. In spite of spam and phishing schemes, the electronic inbox topped out with 61 percent of responders naming it as critical to their jobs, followed by the Internet as a whole.
In perhaps another surprise, landlines beat out cell and smartphones.
“People are probably thinking their landline phone is a bit safer and a bit more reliable sometimes for important business communications than their cellphone might be,” speculated Rainie.
In the future, as the “Internet of Things” takes hold, he said technology’s importance in the workplace will only grow.
“The Internet will literally be all around us, and that will change how people get information to do our jobs,” said Rainie. “It will change the way that they learn things that they have to do to perform their jobs. It will even change the nature of the jobs themselves.”