Work-life balance is difficult, if not impossible in today's supremely connected society. It's hard to stop your job from invading your life if you've got your work email on your smartphone, just as it's difficult to fight the urge to check Facebook at the office.
And as people's personal lives bleed into their work lives, many feel guilty about it, according to a survey commissioned by MobileIron, a company that provides security software to companies to protect employee mobile devices.
In an interview with The Huffington Post, Ojas Rege, MobileIron's VP of Strategy, described "mobile guilt" as the feeling associated with "stealing personal time to do work, or stealing work time to do personal activities."
From December 17, 2014 to January 22, 2015, the Harris Poll conducted an online survey on behalf of MobileIron of more than 3,500 full- or part-time workers throughout Germany, Japan, the U.K., France, Spain and the U.S. who use mobile devices for work.
According to the survey, 56 percent of people check or send personal email at work at least once a day, and 47 percent check or send work email during personal time at least once a day. Fifty-two percent of people send personal text messages during work hours at least once a day, and 38 percent of people send work texts during personal hours at least once a day.
Fifty-three percent said they feel guilty when receiving personal communications at work, but they weren't asked whether they feel guilty about doing work during personal time.
MobileIron identified one subset of people who have the strongest feelings of mobile guilt and who mix work and personal time more than others. They dubbed this group "Generation M," and they're "professionals who are highly dependent on mobile for both work and personal tasks," according to the survey. MobileIron says they're best represented by 18-34 year old men and people with children under 18 at home.
Sixty percent of Generation M check or send personal email at work at least once a day, and 51 percent check or send work email during personal time at least once a day. Fifty-seven percent of Generation M send personal text messages during work hours at least once a day, and 43 percent send work texts during personal hours at least once a day. Fifty percent of Generation M feel guilt when receiving personal communications at work.
Even though they feel guilty, "what's been interesting is that people would leave their job if they weren't able to do it," Rege told HuffPost. Sixty percent of Generation M said they "would leave their job if their employer did not allow remote work or restricted their ability to do personal tasks at work," according to the survey. Fifty-five percent of the general population felt the same way. The "general population" in this instance being people who work at least part-time and rely on cell phones for work. MobileIron sells its services to companies that want to allow their employees to use mobile devices for work with fewer security risks.
"What struck me was that guilt usually means that you're taking an action that you feel is not accepted by the organization or the culture," Rege said. "Usually you think you're the only one doing it. What's interesting in the survey is that we see that everyone is doing it."
Businesses can help their employees separate their work and personal lives and set boundaries while also making it socially acceptable to do something like check your personal email during work hours. "Companies actually have to wake up and catch up to the fact that their employees are adopting a new lifestyle," Rege said.
The boundaries goes both ways, though. Employees shouldn't feel like their work lives are seeping into their personal lives. Employers "have to set clear goals and reasonable boundaries so the employee doesn't feel like they have to be doing email at 2:00 a.m.," Rege said. Those sorts of messages come from the top down.
"We're looking at a workstyle shift probably unlike anything else we've ever seen." Rege said. It's time to change the work culture.