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Study shows tech workers feel obligated to be on call 24/7.

People are overworked -- and bank employees may be the most overworked of all. At least that is the main finding of a recent study conducted by Ontario-based Info-Tech Research Group.

According to a survey conducted by the firm on its Web site, www.infotech.com, 81 percent of respondents, most of whom claimed to serve in an IT role, said they feel obligated to some degree to be on call for the office 24/7 ("somewhat obligated" -- 44 percent; "obligated" -- 22 percent; "absolutely obligated" -- 15 percent). Only 19 percent of respondents said they feel no obligation whatsoever to be available to their employers after hours.

The study "confirmed what people suspected all along," according to Carmi Levy, senior research analyst with Info-Tech. Still, he says, he was surprised by how many people felt obligated to be available to their employers 24/7. "Four out of five respondents felt there should be some degree of staying in touch with the office after hours," Levy relates.

While he notes that people always have taken work home, Levy points out that technology exacerbates the behavior. "My dad used to take papers home from the office," he recalls. "He would maybe spend a half hour on it and go to bed. Between my laptop, mobile phone and virtual private network, I can quite literally recreate my office on my kitchen table. ... Employees are carrying electronic leashes with them, so they never have the opportunity to get away."

And the lines between work and home will continue to blur, Levy says. "Humans are good at releasing new technology to make them work more efficiently, but we're not adept at understanding the implications of this technology," he says. "Managers receive technology, but they don't have the knowledge to set proper expectations for employees as to how the devices will be used."

The ever-accelerating pace of business contributes to the trend, Levy adds. "People have less time to do their work," he says. "There's a general sense among employees that this is a way to ensure their job security. They may very well be operating out of fear."

Workers in the financial industry are particularly vulnerable to the 24/7 syndrome, Levy observes. "Financial services has a higher percentage of knowledge workers than many other industries," he explains. "So it's more sensitive to mobile work and after-hours work. ... Financial services has been a leader in leveraging these technologies and is differentially suffering from the issues discussed in the study."

Levy says that the situation is a real problem for firms. "This is an indication of overwork," he asserts. Further, "It's a sign that human resources and workflow management are not being given the respect they need. This will cost companies in the end in employee burnout, healthcare and disability because people feel stressed. It also leads to turnover. ... As knowledge workers increase in importance, creating more stress for them may make your company less competitive."

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