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Generation Mobile: A new breed of workers or unnecessary label?

Perhaps more than how seemingly clueless they are toward politics and economics, Millennials are often characterized by how much they live on their smartphones. What’s more, a growing number of Millennials and the general population are increasingly mixing work and play on smartphones and other mobile devices — at a rate that’s, arguably, enough to warrant shining the spotlight on them as a new, emerging demographic, called Generation Mobile, or Generation M.

MobileIron, a mobile device management provider, surveyed 3,400 full- and part-time professionals in six countries, including the U.S., who use a mobile device for work, and discovered that the group it calls Generation M is best represented by men ages 18 to 34 and people with children ages 18 and under in their households. The study found that this demographic is more reliant on mobile technology in general to mix their work and personal activities: For example, 60% of Gen M check or send personal emails at least once a day during work hours, and 51% check or send work emails at least once a day during personal hours.

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Source: Wikimedia

The study further found that 42% of Gen M plan to either own or buy a wearable device such as the Apple Watch, and the overwhelming majority of that group (95%) plan to use it for work as well as personal tasks.

Why is it so important to home in on Gen M’s mobile habits, and more particularly their attitude toward wearables? Because, said Bob Tinker, MobileIron’s CEO, the new devices “will increase our connectedness and, possibly, our guilt about mixing our work and personal lives.” The MobileIron survey found that 58% of Gen M workers suffer from “mobile guilt” when receiving personal messages during work hours (compared with 46% of non-Gen M workers); moreover, 61% of Gen M workers feel guilty when receiving work communication during personal hours (compared with 47% of non-Gen M workers).

But one mobile expert, Ken Dulaney, begs to differ — first on whether the label Generation M itself is necessary.

Dulaney, an analyst at Gartner, said it’s hard to argue the obvious – Millennials are already a mobile generation. “Sure, they are mobile. … Many of them were given phones at age 7 or so,” he wrote in an email. But, he added, this group also has varying tastes when it comes to art, fashion, music, movies and more — just like any generation before the Millennials. “Aligning them with one aspect of culture doesn’t mean that much to me,” he said. “You could just as easily brand them the ‘Old Navy generation.'”

Second, Dulaney said it’s hardly surprising that a large proportion of Gen M uses their devices for work. “We bring who we are to work,” he said. What is noteworthy about consumerization in the enterprise, he added, is how unprepared the IT department was and how “it took them a number of years” to accommodate both enterprise and consumer needs. “Hopefully, future changes won’t be so cathartic,” he said.

How about the guilt MobileIron measured among mobile workers?

Not a thing, at least not in the U.S., according to Dulaney.

“Maybe it’s a European thing, but I don’t see many guilty employees, and use of personal technology does nothing but increase,” he said.

Instead, he said that what enterprises should focus on is how to embrace the bring your own apps phenomenon so that employees remain satisfied and motivated.

Check out part two of this blog post to get Dulaney’s take on wearables in the workplace.

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