The Impact of Family & Technology Issues on Sales Careers

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The original questionnaire was developed and pretested in November 2003 (see Authors 2004 for more details). Based on findings from earlier studies and more recent literature, the researchers revised the questionnaire in early 2005. Respondents were asked to identify what sales field or industry they worked in, how much control they had over their daily activities, what percentage of their work involved using technology at home, whether anyone in their households were going to college, whether their spouses were caregivers or not, if any of their children had health problems, and their ethnicity. Questions regarding WFC (Bruner, et al. 2001), and authors-generated health and technology issues were retained. A sales task question and one set of scale items (Bruner and Hensel 1998) were dropped.

A non-probability snowball sampling process was used to collect the data during the Spring 2005 semester at a southern regional university. Students enrolled in one graduate marketing course and two sections of a senior-level undergraduate marketing course were asked to complete the survey for bonus points. In addition, each student was asked to give the survey to four other people they knew and to mark each survey with a code (initials and course number) in order to receive additional bonus points. Care was taken to ensure that the students had not cheated by completing all surveys themselves. A total of 150 usable surveys were returned by the late-April deadline.

Slightly over half (50.7%) of the 150 respondents were men, and over half were younger than 25 (56.4%). Forty-four (29.5%) of the respondents were between the ages of 25 and 34. Eighty-five (56.7%) were single, while 43 (28.7%) were married. Almost 82% of the respondents were Caucasian (122/149). Sixty-nine participants (46.3%) reported having one computer at home. Roughly two out of five (50/127) indicated that their computers were networked at home. All but five people had Internet access from home. Of those 144 with Internet access at home, 76 (52.8%) used a cable modem to access the web. Sixty-one (41.2%) of the 148 respondents had some amount of college education. Over 62% (93/149) indicated that someone in their home was going to college. All but five of the respondents lived in one southern state.

Almost 85% indicated that both parents were still alive. Sixty-one (46.2%) out of 132 reported that they lived less than 20 miles from their parents. Over two thirds of those responding (88/129) indicated that their spouse’s or significant other’s parents were both still living. Forty (43.5%) out of 92 reported that they lived less than 20 miles from their spouse’s parents. Thirty-six participants (24.5%) said they have children; of these, 44.4% have one child. Fourteen (41.2%) reported that they have one child under the age of 18. Nineteen out of 24 parents indicated that they lived less than 20 miles from their children. With regard to being the primary caregiver for parents, only 11 out of the 145 who responded indicated that they had that responsibility. Only four respondents indicated that their spouse/significant other were the primary caregiver for his/her parents. Six parents (out of 38, 15.8%) indicated that they had children with significant health problems. Eighty-two respondents (56.2%) were classified as being employed part-time and 64 (43.8%) were classified as being employed full-time.

The respondents have been with their present employers an average of 36.39 months. For the 66 respondents who were employed less than two years in their current jobs, they had worked an average of 36.2 months in the same field. Over a third of the respondents (55/147; 37.4%) were required to travel as part of their jobs. Of the 55 who indicated that they had to travel, roughly half said their travel required an overnight stay. Respondents averaged 34.18 hours of work per week. Two-thirds (95/144, 66%) reported that they had more control, to a degree (3.6 mean), over their daily activities than did their bosses. Almost half (48.6%) of the respondents said that they did not use technology at home for their work. Most of the participants (85/141; 60.3%) indicated that their use of the Internet for work had remained the same compared to six months before.

The 13 WFC questions (Bruner, et al. 2001) and four health-related questions were measured on a five-point scale, where 1 = Strongly disagree, 4 = Agree strongly, and 5 = Not applicable. For purposes of analysis, any “5” score was dropped, leaving a four-point scale. Respondents tended to agree with positive self-related statements (able to do things, family has resources, take a positive attitude, satisfied with myself; means between 3.04 and 3.66) and spousal career statements (spouse content with his/her job (2.94), I’m content with spouse’s job (2.98)). They tended to disagree with negative self-related statements (feel useless (1.77), feel like a failure (1.29)), work-home conflict statements (spouse’s career conflicts with mine (1.70), family problems cause loss of time at work (1.74), feel tense when get home (1.99)), and all four health-related career-impact statements (health issues affecting career plans; means between 1.47 and 1.71). There were some points of indecision, however. Respondents were torn between agreement and disagreement over: personal concerns reduce my productivity at work (2.20), and contentment with city they live in (2.85).

Finally, with regard to the technology issues, respondents tended to agree or agree strongly with six statements: using computers is more important in my job today (3.27); have to login with a password at work (3.26); required to login when accessing from home (3.17); family members use the home computer for non-work activities (3.51); I’m concerned about home computer security (2.93); and having anti-virus software up-to-date at home (3.16). Some points of indecision are indicated for: company is overly concerned about computer security (2.50); I’m concerned about computer security at work (2.19); company gave me adequate computer training (2.61); being careful about having anti-virus software up-to-date at work (2.78); my spouse uses the home computer for work (2.59); and time spent on computer takes away from family time (2.37).

In this paper the focus of the research is on significant differences by travel requirements. Cross-tabulations and chi-square tests were conducted on the categorical work-related questions. Even with the one-third/two-third split between those who had to travel as part of their jobs and those who didn’t in the sample, there exist potential cell size problems for some of the analyses. For the scale-based questions, the t test for two independent samples was selected over the Mann-Whitney U test, though there is the risk of violation of the homogeneity of variance assumption and the sample sizes varied above and below 30 (see Sheskin 1997, pp. 153 and 181). Since we did not hypothesize any directional differences, two-tailed probabilities were used.

Those who had to travel worked full-time (versus part-time; χ2 = 19.465, df = 1, p = .000) and tended to be employed in IT, government/industrial, and transportation career fields, whereas those who didn’t tended to be employed in retail and hospitality/restaurant fields or were not employed (χ2 = 20.272, df = 8, p = .009, cell size problem). Those who didn’t have to travel tended to be under the age of 25 versus those who did (χ2 = 20.375, df = 4, p = .000, cell size problem), lived less than 20 miles from their parents (versus lived 60 or more miles away; χ2 = 12.202, df = 4, p = .016), were single/never married (versus married; χ2 = 8.091, df = 3, p = .044, cell size problem), and didn’t have any children (χ2 = 6.318, df = 1, p = .012). Those who had to travel tended to be Caucasian in ethnicity (versus African-American and Hispanic; χ2 = 9.75, df = 4, p = .045, cell size problem), had earned a Bachelor’s degree (versus some college education or less; χ2 = 9.794, df = 4, p = .044), and tended to have more computers at home (1.95 vs. 1.62, t = 1.986, p = .049).

Those who had to travel as part of their work requirements had been with their present employer twice as long as those who didn’t have to travel (52.98 months vs. 26.56 months, t = 3.304, p = .002, equal variances not assumed), and tended to work almost 12 hours more per week than those who didn’t have to travel (41.94 hours vs. 29.65 hours, t = 5.303, p = .000). Those who had to travel indicated they had more control over their own daily activities (3.89 vs. 3.43, t = 2.845, p = .005, equal variances not assumed), and spent almost three times as much time using technology at home for their work than those who didn’t have to travel (26.93% vs. 9.9%, t = 3.71, p = .000, equal variances not assumed).

Two significant differences and two marginally significant differences were identified regarding the 13 WFC statements. Those who had to travel tended to agree with the following statements: “My family has the resources to meet our desired lifestyle” (3.25 vs. 2.92, t = 2.307, p = .023) and “I am content with the city in which I live” (3.19 vs. 2.69, t = 3.055, p = .003). Those who did not have to travel tended to disagree more with these statements: “Family problems cause loss of time at work for me” (1.65 vs. 1.90, t = 1.798, p = .074) and “The health of my spouse/significant other has affected my career plans” (1.38 vs. 1.64, t = 1.792, p = .078, equal variances not assumed). The latter two differences are likely explained by the fact that those who didn’t travel also tended to not be married.

Seven significant differences and two marginally significant differences were found for the technology issues. Those who had to travel tended to strongly agree with these statements: “Using computers is more important in my job today than it was five years ago” (3.52 vs. 3.09, t = 2.967, p = .004, equal variances not assumed); “At work I am required to login using a password to access my organization’s computer” (3.51 vs. 3.07, t = 2.576, p = .011, equal variances not assumed); and “If I access my organization’s computer from home I must login” (3.52 vs. 2.79, t = 3.231, p = .002, equal variances not assumed). Those who had to travel also agreed more with these three statements: “My spouse or significant other uses our home computer for work” (2.83 vs. 2.37, t = 1.832, p = .071), “My company is overly concerned about computer security” (2.81 vs. 2.29, t = 2.856, p = .005), and “My company provides computer training that is adequate for my needs” (2.90 vs. 2.42, t = 2.651, p = .009). Those who did not travel as part of their jobs tended to strongly agree with this statement: “Other members in my household use our home computer for activities other than work” (3.60 vs. 3.38, t = -1.851, p = .067), while disagreeing with these two statements: “Time I spend working on the computer takes away from my time with my family” (2.17 vs. 2.64, t = 3.052, p = .003) and “I am concerned about my organization’s computer security” (1.97 vs. 2.51, t = 3.413, p = .001).

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