Salary Survey Extra: Tablet and smartphone usage in the workplace
Salary Survey Extra is a series of dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our annual Salary Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.
As far back as the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, forward-thinking science fictionistas were already envisioning the tablet as a standard workplace computing device of the future. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, Star Trek: The Next Generation was projecting the use of the tablet into the far-distant spacefaring future. Meanwhile, the first mass-produced tablet, Apple’s iPad, made its debut in … 2010.
Where does that leave us in 2021? Probably not in a position where everyone whose job requires a computer is ready to throw off the shackles of laptop and desktop computing setups and luxuriate in the freedom of doing everything on a tablet or smartphone. Both of those devices have become reliable tools of the IT workplace, but neither is ready to become the backbone of a workplace revolution.
Dictation and voice recognition, or perhaps some other as-yet-unguessed technology, will probably someday replace the need to have keyboards and mouses (mice?) or trackpads as primary input devices. Lots of people already talk to their phones instead of swipe-texting or using good, old-fashioned two-thumb hunt-and-pecking.
Even so, however, it’s hard to imagine a rapid or complete transition away from the familiarity of typing and clicking. And while phones and tablets have gradually gotten both more powerful and more cross-functional with traditional desktop and laptop computers, the popularity of multi-monitor displays suggests people aren’t entirely ready to have work be concentrated in such a small viewing area.
We didn’t let any of that stop us, however, from asking about the popularity of smartphones and tablets as tools in the workplace. We asked Salary Survey respondents to give us an estimate of the amount of time per day that they use tablets and phones to perform work-related tasks. Here’s what we learned:
Q: How many hours per day do you use a smartphone or tablet to do your current job?
I never use a smartphone or tablet. — 17.6 percent
An hour or so per day — 32.9 percent
A couple of hours per day — 24.1 percent
3 to 4 hours per day — 11.1 percent
5 to 6 hours per day — 4.5 percent
7 to 8 hours per day — 2.8 percent
More than 8 hours per day — 3.2 percent
Everything I do requires a smartphone or tablet. — 3.9 percent
Nearly a fifth of survey respondents don’t use a smartphone or tablet to accomplish anything work-related and, at the other end of the spectrum, only 3.9 percent of respondents can do everything their job requires using only a smartphone or tablet.
Everyone else is somewhere in the middle, though 56 percent of those everyone elses don’t use a handheld device for work more than an hour (32.9 percent) or a couple of hours (24.1 percent) per day. There’s a notable block of survey respondents — 11.1 percent of those surveyed, to be precise — whose usage of a tablet or smartphone amounts to almost half of the standard eight-hour workday.
And then, on our way to the total domination of all workplace functions referenced above, we have smallish pockets of people who use a tablet or smartphone either 5 to 6 hours per day (4.5 percent of respondents), 7 to 8 hours per day (2.8 percent), or more than 8 hours per day (3.2 percent).
Handheld computing may someday become the future of IT work — but that future is not here yet.