Americans work more, seem to accomplish less

Americans work more, seem to accomplish less

By Ellen Wulfhorst
Thu Feb 23, 9:52 AM ET

Most U.S. workers say they feel rushed on the job, but they are getting less accomplished than a decade ago, according to newly released research.

Workers completed two-thirds of their work in an average day last year, down from about three-quarters in a 1994 study, according to research conducted for Day-Timers Inc., an East Texas, Pennsylvania-based maker of organizational products.

The biggest culprit is the technology that was supposed to make work quicker and easier, experts say.

"Technology has sped everything up and, by speeding everything up, it’s
slowed everything down, paradoxically," said John Challenger, chief
executive of Chicago-based outplacement consultants Challenger, Gray
& Christmas Inc.

"We never concentrate on one task anymore. You take a little chip
out of it, and then you’re on to the next thing," Challenger said on
Wednesday. "It’s harder to feel like you’re accomplishing something."

Unlike a decade ago, U.S. workers are bombarded with e-mail,
computer messages, cell phone calls, voice mails and the like, research
showed.

The average time spent on a computer at work was almost 16 hours a
week last year, compared with 9.5 hours a decade ago, according to the
Day-Timer research released this week.

Workers typically get 46 e-mails a day, nearly half of which are unsolicited, it said.

Sixty percent of workers say they always or frequently feel rushed,
but those who feel extremely or very productive dropped to 51 percent
from 83 percent in 1994, the research showed.

Put another way, in 1994, 82 percent said they accomplished at least
half their daily planned work but that number fell to 50 percent last
year. A decade ago, 40 percent of workers called themselves very or
extremely successful, but that number fell to just 28 percent.

"We think we’re faster, smarter, better with all this technology at
our side and in the end, we still feel rushed and our feeling of
productivity is down," said Maria Woytek, marketing communications
manager for Day-Timers, a unit of ACCO Brands Corp.

The latest study was conducted among a random sample of about 1,000
people who work at least part time. The earlier study surveyed some
1,300 workers.

Expectations that technology would save time and money largely
haven’t been borne out in the workplace, said Ronald Downey, professor
of psychology who specializes in industrial organization at Kansas
State University.

"It just increases the expectations that people have for your production," Downey said.

Even if productivity increases, it’s constantly outpaced by those
expectations, said Don Grimme of GHR Training Solutions, a workplace
training company based in Coral Springs, Florida.

"The irony is the very
expectation of getting more done is getting in the way of getting more
done," he said. "People are stressed out."

Companies that are flexible with workers’ time and give workers the
most control over their tasks tend to fare better against the sea of
rising expectations, experts said.

Businesses that have moved to 24-hour operations, bosses who
micro-manage and longer commutes all add to the problem, they said,
while downsizing leaves fewer workers doing the work of those who left.

Finally, there’s a trend among companies to measure job performance
like never before, said Challenger. "There’s a sense that no matter how
much I do, it’s never enough," he said.

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