No matter how hard we try, it's nearly impossible to have a completely empty email inbox. And when it comes to work email, technology seems to be both a blessing and a curse. Emailing important documents is time-saving, but the constant influx of new information can be distracting.

But even though work email sucks at times, tech in the workplace overall increases employee productivity. According to a recent Pew Research Center report, 46 percent of workers who use online and digital tools, whether it be email, the Internet or smartphones, feel more productive.

The Pew Research Center surveyed over 1,000 adults who use the Internet, and then fine-tuned its focus to look at the 535 adults who worked either full or part-time in white collar office jobs.

They found that not only does tech at work increase productivity, but it also increases flexibility in work schedules. 39 percent of the workers surveyed reported having more flexible hours.

However, the benefits come at a price. 35 percent of workers are actually working more hours because of these tech tools.

"The once rigid boundary between 'work' and 'home' has changed to something that is highly permeable," says Pew's director of Internet, science, and technology research, Lee Rainie.  "People do lots of work at home and they do some home-related things at work -like shop, browse the web, watch March Madness on their mobile devices in their cubicles."

Having a smartphone means that employees can send and receive email at any time from the palm of their hand. This could make them feel like they work more or are always on call, especially if their boss sends over an important message.

According to Pew surveys, 61 percent of employees in the U.S. used email at work. By 2008, the number rose to 62 percent.

Still, using email today is a common part of our everyday life."Email is to the digital age what stone-sharpening tools were in the prehistoric age," says Rainie.

And even though social media, texting and spam emails threaten productivity, only one in three workers relied on landlines to do work. The survey also found that workers in white collar jobs are three times more dependent on technology than those who work blue collar jobs.

Because the Internet and other technologies have become part of our everyday life, the best way to stay productive when using them is to prioritize tasks and avoid checking your Facebook ten times an hour.

Pew's findings are part of a larger series of reports that are tied to the 25th anniversary of the Internet. 

[Photo Credit: Michael Coghlan/Flickr]

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