Distracted By Phones But Not Phoning It In


How Young Professionals Use Their Time to Get Ahead

Millennials tend to get a bad rap. Older generations see them as social-media-obsessed couch potatoes who are glued to their smartphones. Is it true? We wanted to find out. So, TSheets surveyed 1,000 adults (aged 18+) to learn more about their time-wasting habits. We wanted to answer the ever-pressing question, “Are millennials less productive?” And what we found might surprise you.

For people who graduated college during — or in the aftermath of — the Great Recession of 2008, it wasn’t an easy few years in which to enter the workforce. Cue the fond memories.

I recall the time before the economy began its slow, arduous climb. Recent grads took work where they (we!) could find it, regardless of how it related to that hard-earned degree.

Stephanie, a fellow TSheeter who also graduated college in 2009 said entering the workforce at that time was frustrating.

“I applied for jobs I was qualified for and would get interviews,” she said. “I went on tons of interviews and would always make it to the last round, but was then beat out by someone overqualified for the position I was applying for.”

Stephanie said she noticed a trend of losing jobs to the over-qualified competition who were also struggling to find work — people with doctorates applying or executive assistant positions, for example.

“I worked a whole year for free for an employer who assumed everything I had was paid for by my parents. But I was really living off the quarters in my couch,” she explained. “It was supposed to be this amazing internship that I was lucky to have, and the theory was that my sacrifice would be worth it in the end. But my work was being taken advantage of.”

Stephanie said that experience has made her weary of the job search and wonders if many other professionals her age felt the same way about finding work.

If working for free to build the ol’ resumé was out of the question, grads took employment as nannies and as substitute teachers or in the service industry to pay their student debt and buy groceries. Some were fortunate enough to move back home (though not exactly living the dream) in order to save money and start over. Others went abroad for better professional opportunities or struggled it out in cities where rents skyrocketed.

But with this difficult experience came opportunities to learn. The new recession-era workforce was resourceful. They created new paths, often using side-hustles to stay sharp.

But the losses were real. “The Career Effects of Graduating in a Recession” by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that “graduating in a recession leads to large initial earnings losses. These losses, which amount to about 9 percent of annual earnings in the initial stage, eventually recede, but slowly — halving within five years but not disappearing until about ten years after graduation.”


Generation phone-face

With all of this in mind, young professionals have also been joining the workforce as technology has become more a part of daily life than ever before. And while millennials have used tech to find, create, and define new roles in the equation, they recognize that technology, especially smartphones, can be a distraction. TSheets recently conducted a survey of 1,000 adults (age 18+) to see what they believed to be their biggest time-wasting habits.

And since we’re endlessly curious about time tracking, TSheets wanted to discover how people use their time to pinpoint any correlations between age and productivity. For every generation, smartphones are not just a fancy option, but they serve as an appendage with which we can navigate and interact with the world around us. We were fairly certain that every generation loves their smartphone, but we wanted to set the record straight.


Are young people becoming less productive by using their phones at work?

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We found that only 15 percent of baby boomers admitted to being distracted by their smartphones at work, while nearly half of millennials admitted to it. Perhaps the gap between the older generation and the younger generation is closing in terms of technology use (and the distraction it causes) as time goes on, but for now, it’s clear that millennials do find their tech drawing attention away from the tasks at hand.

But really, every age group is dependent on their phones. One in 5 respondents described their phones as time wasters. And the amount of time millennials and boomers spend on Facebook is about the same — around 37 percent.


A resourceful upper hand: using time differently

The world has changed a lot since my parents and my parents’ parents were 20- and 30-somethings. Shoot, it’s even hard to compare the tech-filled childhoods of the tots I know today with the memories of dial-up and its incessant busy signals. For the majority of the youngest generation, Wi-Fi seems akin to gravity: a natural phenomenon. It just is.

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Even if millennials have used tech to find their place in the workforce, they recognize that technology, especially smartphones, can be a distraction at work. It could be that young professionals owe their success (and how they define that success) to how they use their time, rather than how they waste it.

Resourceful millennials have shown us that job-hopping can be a clever use of time to compensate for leaving academia when jobs were scarce, and young workers use a tech-forward approach to improve systems and keep teams connected. And what’s quite possibly even more interesting is that millennials are bringing greater attention to the idea of work-life balance, as they highly value PTO and remote work.


How are you using your free time to get ahead?
Let us know in the comments below!

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