So, is a Blackberry a pro or con for WLB?

Posted on November 29, 2009 ยท Posted in Analysis and Opinion

I was interviewed by a journalist about Information Overload recently and she asked whether I agree that having a smart phone helps people to balance work and home life?

My first reaction would be “yes, if you use it wisely”. After all, when we deployed Notebook computers at Intel in the mid-nineties it was eminently obvious that they can be a boon for one’s Life: instead of staying late at the office to finish your work, you could take it home to do after dinner, with the kids safely in bed… and of course, Notebooks enabled Telecommuting, which (at a carefully defined one-day-a-week rate) became a major improvement in WLB. Blackberries are just little computers, so wouldn’t they, too, improve the balance?

But on second thought, I had to admit to myself that that isn’t the case. Smartphones are certainly a good thing for many purposes, and they do allow you to remain connected in some cases that would otherwise require you to remain tethered to the office (even if only a home office). It’s easy to imagine scenarios where a Smartphone would give you freedom that you value as increasing WLB. Unfortunately, they can and do go too far, beyond the optimum; that is, any gain they provide in flexibility is offset by the constant intrusiveness and expectation of 24×7 instant response. These miracles of engineering bring powerful benefits, which I use and value, but their distracting impact is too damaging.

The sad part is, you could have the best of both worlds; all it takes is an intelligent strategy and the willpower to enforce it. My Nokia E71 is set up not to notify me of incoming email; that alone solves a large part of the problem. And I usually let it go to voicemail if it gets a call while I’m in a meeting. No rocket science is involved; you could do this today. You’d also need to make sure your correspondents and organization accept this behavior; once it does, you can have a Blackberry without impacting your Life and your Family’s.

One day I’ll tell you about that little switch with the magic symbol on it…


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