Using your Blackberry to shoot yourself in the foot

Posted on June 20, 2008 11:10 am by | Business | Mobile | Wireless

I talk to an increasing number of people who wake up in the morning and instantly grab their Blackberry from the bedside table to check work email. Dealing with work on your smartphone is a huge example of the end of work-life balance, but it’s not the only one. Conference calls with Asia at 2 a.m., getting reports done while on vacation, following work-related developments online over the weekend…it’s all typical for knowledge workers. Just as the news cycle has gone 24 hours, so has the work cycle.

It is because nobody outside of the assembly line works from 9 to 5 that the use of at-work networks for non-work-related activities should not only be tolerated by encouraged. A recent study—not conducted by an organization with a financial interest in helping companies bloock access—there are perfectly legitimate reasons for employees to engage in these non-work or semi-work-related activities while at the office and, further, that blocking could backfire and result in lost productivity.

(The study was published in the June issue of the CyberPsychology and Behaviour Journal.)

Leave it to some workers to want to return to the days of the clear line between work and leisure. CNN is reporting that employees are making noise about being compensated for the time they spend on their Blackberries while away from the office. Producers and reporters for ABC News have evidently reached an agreement with management to pay them for their smartphone activities. Lawyers are warning companies that they can expect more such demands.

Talk about shooting themselves in their collective feet. If a company pays you for the time you spend doing work away from the office, then they have every right to expect you will devote every minute in the office to work. And that’s just denial of the 24-hour work cycle that can only lead to complications of multiple stripes. From compensation practices to the fine line between online activities with and without work dimensions (for instance, representing your company well while engaging in primarily non-work networking), things could get very ugly in a hurry. It seems companies aren’t the only ones that need to wake up to the realities of the networked world. Add greedy, clueless employees (and, in some cases, the unions that represent them) to those ranks, too.



  • 1.Shel, you make a very rational point here but I think you're being insensitive to many employees, for whom work and life isn't such an integrated festival-of-intellect-friendship-and-soul as it is for you.

    Some people really do work to live, and living means being friggin' home with the family, in the forest with their friends, on their saleboat without the possibility of sending them an attachment for their review.

    My life is more like yours than like theirs, but I don't begrudge them their efforts to achieve it, and I don't think you should either.

    David Murray | June 2008 | Chicago

  • 2.I think there are many who end up in the worst of both worlds...the situation you outline at the end. They are pushed relentlessly while at the office, and expected to be tethered to work after hours.

    I'd wager a guess that some of the folks demanding to be compensated for after-hours work are also ones who are already treated with blocked access at work.

    They are complaining because they have little left to lose.

    Not all of course...some folks just like to push the envelope.

    Good, thought-provoking post.

    PS--I've been blessed with a lot of really great employers who understand balance...

    Jen Zingsheim | June 2008

  • 3.There's a simpler solution than that, David. Turn it off. If your employer blocks access and refuses to acknowledge the need for work life integration, then go along with them. When you go home, stop working. There, now, wasn't that simple? I've been saying it for years: If your company insists that you not engage in non-work-related activities at work, then you should insist that you'll engage in no non-home activities at home.

    Shel Holtz | June 2008 | New York, NY

  • 4.Well said. I couldn't agree with Shel more.

    Sherrilynne Starkie | June 2008 | Isle of Man

  • 5.I think there's another side to this. And it applies to teleworking as well. If you want to drive for promotions and raises, you're competing with very competent people who are single and/or childless, or married with children but making the decision anyway to work longer hours at the office and not at the office to get the job done. The manager may not be telling them to do it at all, but they are setting that standard for themselves.

    So you make a concious decision to keep connected and involved in the evenings, on weekends and on vacation because you want your projects and work to be seen as successful, productive,

    But you lose the right to whine.

    If you opt on the other hand to preserve your personal life and time, or telecommute, you do so knowing that it potentially comes at a cost and you have to work harder and smarter when you're "on the clock" to ensure the appropriate visibility for advancement.

    As Glenn Beck just wrote, I believe "inalienable rights" include the right to the pursuit of happiness, but not a guarantee of happiness. Similarly, a company promises to pay you for what they hired you to do and possibly the opportunity for advancement...but not the guarantee that you will advance.

    Does that sound too harsh?

    michael clendenin

    michael clendenin | June 2008

Comment Form
What is the three-letter acronym for the podcast For Immediate Release?

« Back