Working an extra seven hours a day

Apparently technology now allows us to cram 31 hours worth of activity into every day. Oh good...

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

We’ve all had days that seemed to go on for much longer than 24 hours. Turns out we were right. According to US think tank OTX, time-saving electronic gadgets mean we can now get through much more work than we could ten years ago. In fact, our daily activities would have taken us 31 hours just a decade ago, when the Blackberry, PDA, sat nav and co were just a twinkle in a technician’s eye.

OTX says the multi-tasking frenzy begins at the breakfast table, with people checking the latest news and email on their Blackberry as they gobble down their toast and marmalade. We get in our cars, where we listen to the radio, talk on the phone (hands-free, of course) and play with the sat nav, as it accidentally sends us to a similarly-named place several hundred miles from our intended destination. Then we spend the day in the office, being bombarded by phone and email messages from all sides.

And worst of all, there’s no respite even when we finally do unplug and come home for the evening; in fact, according to OTX, this can actually be our busiest time of the day. As well as watching TV or playing with the Sky+ box, we might be simultaneously going online to surf the internet, chatting to people on Facebook, using our phones and (if we’re really lucky) holding a conversation with an actual human being. However, more relaxing activities – like dinner, for example – came well down the priority list. Patrick Moriarty, one of the authors of the report, suggested the average person may actually be ‘far more mentally engaged than they are in the office’.

No doubt some will see this as a triumph for human efficiency – a sign that we’re squeezing more productivity out of our days. But to us, it just shows that new technology is actually making our work/ life balance significantly worse than it was before. The more of these devices we have, the harder it is to leave our work in the office and to do something slightly more edifying than read Outlook during our hours of leisure.

As OTX says, it does make you wonder how people spent their evenings before all these numerous distractions were invented. ‘It must have been a lot quieter, or maybe they talked to each other in the evenings,’ says Moriarty. To be honest, we reckon people probably just watched more TV. But we admire his idealism.

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