Is Your Work Ethic Making Our Roads More Dangerous?

Americans have long prided themselves on a strong work ethic. But we’ve hit a point where we can’t seem to escape work-mode. We’re working through lunch, working late, and working weekends. We’re even trying to work while driving. 

Have you ever taken a work call while driving? Maybe you’ve even checked your work email from the driver’s seat. Despite driving laws intended to curb phone use while driving, many of us are guilty of doing just that.

Part of the problem is our dependence on our phones. We are rarely without our phones, so our bosses, colleagues, and clients know there’s a good chance our phones are with us at all times. In fact, in a recent survey, 70% of respondents report feeling anxious if they don’t have their phones with them when they leave the house. Even worse, 68% of Americans admit to using their phones while driving. 

So if you get a message from work while driving, how can you just ignore it?

Let’s look at some of the latest survey data on how Americans are using their phone for work and how the inability to switch off from work-mode is making our roads more dangerous.

How Much are We Using Our Phones?

79% of Americans reported having become more reliant on their smartphones when it comes to completing daily tasks and activities. The percentage is greater among younger generations, with 85% of respondents from the Millennial and Gen Z generations reporting more reliance on their phones for daily tasks.

What daily tasks are we doing from our phones? We’re:

  • Looking up information online - 75% of those surveyed

  • Checking in on social media -72%

  • Reading and sending emails - 68%

  • Checking the weather - 66%

  • Reading the news - 63%

  • Getting directions - 61%

While the majority of our time spent on our phones is for personal tasks and activities, a growing percentage is for work. 28% of survey respondents report having anxiety about missing a work-related emergency by not having their phone with them at all times. 

Work Doesn’t Necessarily Stop When You Get in the Car

Smartphones have made it possible for workers to be available to the job round-the-clock. Supervisors and clients now expect that we’ll receive their texts, emails, and voicemails regardless of the day and time the messages are sent. And some demanding bosses and clients expect a quick response to those messages even when we’re not working. 

And while you’d have a hard time finding anyone who would say they expect an immediate response from a worker who’s driving, workers still feel the pressure. Workers want to know what’s going on so they can respond immediately if they’re needed urgently. 26% of Americans admit to using their phones while driving due to fear of missing out on something work-related.

Men are particularly susceptible to feeling the pressure. Men are 62% more likely than women to cite anxiety related to work emergencies as a cause for using their phones while driving.

Men are also 41% more likely to read work texts than women while driving. And they’re 53% more likely than women to send work texts while behind the wheel.

The Risk is Higher For Millennials and Gen Z

For most people of generations that grew up pre-Internet (or in the early days of the Internet), there were more clearly defined boundaries between work and home. When you were at home, you were on personal time. When you were at work, you were on work time. 

But the Internet has blurred the lines by making everyone more accessible. At work, you might be tempted to scroll your social media feed. And from home, you might get notified of a work issue that requires immediate action.

Millennials and Gen Z grew up in the connected world, and rather than looking for a “work/life balance” of the older generations, they’re looking for a “work/life fusion” where business and personal worlds collide. In theory, younger generations expect to glide seamlessly from work time to personal time and back again several times each day. 

This agile lifestyle works well for good multitaskers. But there’s one place where you shouldn’t even attempt to multitask: the road.

Millennials and Gen Z are 16% more likely to use their phones while driving than non-millennials.  This attempted multitasking is dangerous to themselves, their passengers, and all others sharing the road.

What You Can Do to Curb Your Work While Driving

There are several things you can do to eliminate work from your drive time:

  • Set clear boundaries. Let people know that you’re unavailable to receive or respond to messages when you’re in the car.

  • Store your phone out of reach. Leave your phone in the backseat, or even in the trunk, where you won’t be tempted to check.

  • Turn off notifications while driving.

  • Turn your phone off while you’re in the car.

  • Use an app that locks your phone while you’re in your vehicle.

  • Enroll in an online defensive driving course. You’ll learn how to be a safer driver, and the course may entitle you to a discount on your auto insurance premium!

Key Takeaways

Americans have become dependent on our phones for the tasks we complete in our everyday personal lives and work lives. And we’re doing a poor job of ignoring our phones while driving, even though we know that safe driving requires our full attention. 

The Millennial generation and Gen Z are more likely to use their phones while driving than Gen Xers and Boomers. The younger generations came of age in a connected world and don’t have the clear barrier between work time and personal time that the older generations have.

There are lots of ways to eliminate working while driving. The most effective method is to remove the temptation completely by making your phone unavailable while you’re driving. Whether you physically place your phone out of reach or you digitally lock your phone via an app, removing the phone from the equation will reduce your distractions and make you a safer driver.

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