Mobile productivity: Too much of a good thing?

Man with mobile phone

Mobile devices can provide greater connectivity, faster responses ... along with intrusions into personal time and opportunities for distraction. (FCW illustration)

Mobile device use among feds continues to increase, and these devices are becoming critical to mission success, according to a new study. But the increased connectivity may have its downsides.

Results from the study, which polled 300 feds from various civilian and defense agencies, were discussed July 9 at the Federal Mobile Computing Summit. The research was conducted by FierceGovernmentIT and Market Connections and published by FierceGovernmentIT.

Of those feds surveyed, 82 percent felt mobile devices were critical to employees carrying out agency missions, and 81 percent said mobile devices increased productivity. Notably, 63 percent of feds said they are working more at home or after-hours because of their mobile devices – work they otherwise would have left until the next available business day.

"Mobile device use has definitely increased, and the way government employees consume information is changing, largely driven by the use of mobile devices to access the Internet," said Monica Mayk Parham of Market Connections.

On average, feds reported three extra hours of productivity per week due to using either their own or government-issued devices, with more than half of those surveyed claiming an additional five hours of weekly device-driven productivity.

While the most popular mobile devices continue to be smart phones, Parham said tablets have gained significant ground in 2013. Tablets are now used by 60 percent of federal employees, doubling in popularity among the federal community since 2012.

"Doubling in the span of a year is very significant," Parham said.

Parham said the survey shows that feds care about what device they are using. About 78 percent of feds use a smart phone as their own mobile device, but 92 percent believe employees are "significantly more productive" by using a smart phone and tablet.

"We tend to think of mobile devices as transparent to users," Parham said. "The device does matter."

Interestingly, some feds in attendance at the Federal Mobile Computing Summit voiced concern over increased hours of productivity, claiming that mobile device use could lead to labor law violations if certain federal employees overextend themselves in the work place or working from home. Others reported mandates from agencies that employees are not to use their mobile work devices during furloughs.

And one government employee who did not identify himself said that mobile devices were getting to be a distraction in his agency. He said individuals attending staff meetings often did so with their mobile devices in hand, consumed by whatever text-message conversations or Internet surfing they were doing.

"It can be a time waster if you have a meeting," and then have to have another meeting because everyone was too busy playing on their mobile devices, the man said.

About the Author

Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.

Cyber. Covered.

Government Cyber Insider tracks the technologies, policies, threats and emerging solutions that shape the cybersecurity landscape.


Reader comments

Wed, Jul 10, 2013

They should give you a dollar amount to just use your BYOD, and if you get call outs there should be a time limit of COMP time so that it can get accounted for. We are more and more giving our time away to the goverment and our families are suffering for it. They can just take those cell phones away, and like you said tomorrow is another day to deal with it. Judges should not be calling there people out at night, monitors should go back to the Police and Sheriffs departments when criminals violate there probation or pretrial. We are holding this criminals hands more then we hold our own kids, how are they going to grow up.

Wed, Jul 10, 2013

@ "I attended the...." Managers generally HATE to micromanage (unless that is their personality in which case they probably shouldn't be managers). Micromanagement by a supervisor can also be a symptom of poorly performing employees...just saying.

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 Hyoun Park Boston, MA

"On average, feds reported three extra hours of productivity per week" Does this mean that feds would vouch that mobility is equivalent to a 5 - 7% increase in headcount? Or a 5-7% increase in cases or missions completed? Or does it just mean that people are doing 5-7% more busy work to get the same amount of stuff done? 3 hours of additional work doesn't necessarily mean 3 hours of additional productivity. I actually think every employee should have mobile access, but let's be realistic about the gains achieved.

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 RayW

Reported three hours extra productivity due to a mobile device? I wonder how many hours are wasted checking it for other stuff? Reminds me of someone I saw walking down the street, walk 10 steps, stop, pull out the phone, look at it, put back in pocket, walk 10 more steps, repeat (well, maybe 20 steps). This went on for about a mile until I got to my destination and left the street.

But then as the article pointed out, is that productivity during working hours or doing work after hours? That could mean unrecorded time, a violation of accounting rules, at least around here.

Wed, Jul 10, 2013

Used to be very rude to disrepect the mtg organizer by attending to a mobile device and not paying attention to the mtg. Still should be. Leaving the office for the day used to be the necessary refresher that humans needed to be ready to go the next day. Now, employees are on a ball and chain 24/7. At some point an upper limit will be reached kind of like house prices where both spouses salaries are required just to get in a home. There is an upper limit. An old movie titled Koyaanisqatsi made in 1982 comes to mind. The Hopi Indians may have had it right all along.

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