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Portable technology makes 8-hour shifts obsolete

The emergence of mobile technology has generated a paradoxical renovation to the American job market.

According to USA Today, the number of mobile technology users in the U.S. has increased exponentially from two years ago.

The Pew Research Center reported that 48 percent of workers owned smartphones and 33 percent had tablets in May 2011. Currently, smartphone usage jumped to 62 percent and tablet ownership reached 33 percent in the national workforce.

On the one hand, smartphones and tablets have enabled workers to operate from a myriad of alternative locales, essentially inaugurating constant communication throughout the workplace.

However, like many innovations, this paradigm-shifting technology is two-fold. An easily accessible work environment has blurred the boundaries between career obligations and personal responsibilities. Shut-down mode is no longer an option, particularly when competition lurks around every corner.

“There’s an arms-race component to this,” says Lee Rainie, who directs the Pew Research Center’s ongoing study of technology’s social impact. If someone is “sucking up to the boss at midnight, (others think) ‘I’ve got to make sure I say something, too.’ “

The question, therefore, becomes does the rise of mobile devices warrant the potential 24-hour workday? Apparently that’s for each person to decide individually at this point.

“There are no consistent workplace rules and expectations” in this area, says Pew’s Rainie. That makes for “a tension-rife situation.”