Press releases

UK's youngest workers three times as likely to check their work emails every hour

21 February 2020

  • The proportion of young workers using their mobile phone very often for business purposes outside of working hours rose from 12 per cent in 2018 to 21 per cent in 2019;
  • 16 per cent of workers aged 18-24 check work emails on their smartphone every hour, compared to 5 per cent of those aged over 55;
  • 15 per cent of smartphone owners aged 18-24 wake during the night to check their phone.

The proportion of young workers using their smartphone very often for business purposes outside of working hours almost doubled between 2018 and 2019, according to newly published findings from Deloitte’s Mobile Consumer Survey

Deloitte’s research, analysing the smartphone usage habits of 4,150 people between the ages of 16 and 75 in the UK, found that just 12 per cent of workers aged 18-24 said they checked their device very often for business purposes out of hours in 2018, but this rose to 21 per cent in 2019. Overall, 66 per cent of workers with a smartphone use their device for work-related business activities, rising to 79 per cent of those aged 18-24.

One in six (16 per cent) workers aged 18-24 say they check work emails on their smartphone every hour, compared to just 5 per cent of workers aged 55-75, and a national average of 10 per cent. Over half (52 per cent) of young workers check their emails on their phone daily, compared an average of 36 per cent.

The data follows research published by Deloitte highlighting that poor mental health costs UK employers up to £45 billion each year*. The report describes a complex picture, in which more people with poor mental health are continuing to work when they are not at their most productive, rather than take time off, highlighting leaveism and presenteeism as characteristics of an ‘always-on’ culture, enabled by smartphone technology.

Younger people were found to be the most vulnerable demographic in the workplace, with workers aged 18-29 less likely to disclose mental health problems to employers and more likely to use their holiday allowance instead of taking days off work.

Dr. Carolyn Lorian, workplace wellbeing consulting lead at Deloitte, said: “Used in the right way, smartphones can bring huge benefits to workplace productivity – allowing people to catch up with emails on the move and giving people access to their information as and when they need it.

“Used in the wrong way, smartphones can have a detrimental effect on how people approach their work, adding to the ‘always-on’, high-pressured workplace culture. With young people experiencing this at the very start of their career, the concern is that this will set the precedent of how people work for generations to come. Down the line, this could pose serious threats to both mental and physical health.”

Fifteen per cent of 18-24s wake during the night to check their phone
Deloitte’s research highlights that the UK’s youngest adults are the most likely age group to think they overuse their smartphones. Sixty-two per cent of smartphone owners aged 18-24 think they use their phone too much, against a national average of 37 per cent.

Britain’s youngest smartphone owners are also the most likely age group to have experienced side-effects of using their device. Three-quarters of smartphone owners aged 18-24 (77 per cent) have experienced a side-effect from over-using their device, with 39 per cent citing increased levels of distraction when they are trying to complete a task and 34 per cent feeling they constantly need to check their phone. Fifteen per cent say they sometimes wake up during the night to check their phone.

Of those who think they use their phone too much, 78 per cent of 18-24 year olds are trying to manage their smartphone usage. Thirty-two per cent turn the sound off, while 12 per cent use screen time trackers and 7 per cent go to the extent of giving their smartphone to someone else to manage their use.

Lorian added: “The majority of those experiencing side-effects from smartphones are taking steps to limit their usage, however this doesn’t seem to be leading to a change in behaviour. Despite our handsets representing the very pinnacle of modern technology, perhaps it’s an old adage that should guide everyone’s use: everything in moderation.

“Smartphones aren’t inherently harmful, it’s as much about how people are using their device as it is how often you use it.” 

Eighty-eight per cent use their personal phone while working
Finally, Deloitte’s research finds that 88 per cent of UK workers say they use their smartphone for personal purposes during their working hours, rising to 93% per cent of 18-24 year olds.

Sixty-six per cent of workers who use their personal phone while at work say it’s distracting, rising to 82 per cent of those aged 18-24.

Lorian concludes: “There’s no easy answer to what constitutes healthy smartphone use. The benefit our smartphones serve us is incredibly subjective. It’s up to individuals to decide whether their smartphone is helping their productivity, or interfering with it. Smartphones will continue to be the most important device in our pockets for decades to come, and their uses will continue to grow. Smartphone manufacturers, businesses, and device users will all be responsible for ensuring that they continue to be a help, rather than a hindrance, in our working lives.”

End

Note to editors

About the research
This research is based on the UK cut of Deloitte’s Global Mobile Consumer Survey, a multi-country study of mobile phone users around the world. The 2019 study comprises approximately 44,150 respondents across 28 countries and six continents.

Data cited in this report are based on a nationally representative sample of 4,150 UK consumers aged 16-75. The sample follows a country specific quota on age, gender, region and socio-economic status. Fieldwork took place during early Summer 2019 and was carried out online by Ipsos MORI, an independent research firm, based on a question set provided by Deloitte.

*Deloitte's report ‘Mental health and employers: the case for refreshing investment’ finds that poor mental health costs UK employers up to £45 billion each year. This is a rise of 16% since 2016 - an extra £6 billion a year.

The research also looks at how employers can tackle this problem, finding that it pays to support employees’ mental health. On average, for every £1 spent on supporting their people’s mental health, employers get £5 back on their investment in reduced presenteeism, absenteeism and staff turnover.

About Deloitte
In this press release references to “Deloitte” are references to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (“DTTL”) a UK private company limited by guarantee, and its network of member firms, each of which is a legally separate and independent entity.

Please see deloitte.com/about for a detailed description of the legal structure of DTTL and its member firms.

Deloitte LLP is a subsidiary of Deloitte NSE LLP, which is a member firm of DTTL, and is among the UK's leading professional services firms.

The information contained in this press release is correct at the time of going to press.

For more information, please visit www.deloitte.co.uk

Member of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited

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