The use of online and digital tools, such as smartphones, e-mail and Internet access in general, increases the flexibility and productivity of workers in the office, a Pew Research Center report shows. However, the trade off is the need for employees to work longer hours.

In the report, almost half of the employees surveyed (46 percent) that use online and digital tools say that they feel that they are more productive, and almost four out of every 10 employees (39 percent) say that smartphones, e-mail and Internet access provide them with additional flexibility in their job.

However, 35 percent of the respondents said that due to the presence of digital tools, they are at work for more hours.

"The once rigid boundary between 'work' and 'home' has changed to something that is highly permeable," said Lee Rainie, Pew Research Center's director of Internet, science and technology research.

Rainie added that there is an increased trend of employees taking home their work activities and doing home-related activities while at work, including shopping, browsing the Internet, and watching online programs.

The report was a result of a survey conducted by the research center over Sept. 12 and Sept. 18, wherein over 1,000 adult Internet users were involved, focusing on 535 adults that worked either full-time or part-time.

Pew's study was not designed to search for conclusive data on how people see their work hours when using online and digital tools. However, the trend came up in the analysis.

According to Rainie, workers feel that they are "on call" because their employers can send them an e-mail even while at home or initiate a video call on their smartphones for work-related discussions even while they are on vacation.

The Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development said that when compared to work data in other countries, U.S. employees are working 1,790 hours per year, which is higher than the global average of 1,765 hours. The OECD also said that 11 percent of U.S. workers are in the office for very long hours, which is higher than the global average of nine percent.

The survey found that workers see e-mail as the most important tech tool, with Internet coming in second then landline telephones, cellphones and social media websites.

The report also found that 51 percent of the respondents were able to expand the number of people from outside the company that they communicate with. This is despite the fact that 46 percent of the respondents said that their employer restricts access to specific websites and limits their online activities.

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