Are PDA’s Wreaking Havoc on the Work-Life Balance?

For many people, there is no distress more strong, no angst more poignant, than the separation anxiety one feels when they realize their iPhone or Blackberry isn’t snuggly resting in their pocket where they thought they left it.  We have developed quite a relationship with our PDA’s as a society; they plan our day for us, they tell us the news, they relay messages from our mothers and our clients, we play on them, and yes, we work on them.  We have become so dependant on them that we don’t know what we would do without them.

It is important to remember however, that even though our iPhone might connect us to our friends and family, it is NOT our friends and family.  It is easy to get so wrapped up in our PDA’s that we ignore the important people and things around us, and no, I’m not just referring to those “dang teenagers whose phones are glued to their hands.”  I’m referring more specifically to someone a little bit older, a little bit wiser, and with a little less baggy jeans– our society’s workforce.  With PDA’s making it possible for you to type an email, look at a spreadsheet, or surf the web for research from your desk, the road, or your dinner table, it has become almost TOO easy to take your work home with you.  You are virtually dialed into your workplace 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; this kind of access from you to your work and your work to you has the potential to breed workaholics.

So what are your thoughts?  How do PDA’s affect your work-life balance?  To the author of the Silicon article below, they are a necessary and beneficial staple for today’s on-the-go workforce. Our opinion is that Blackberries, iPhones, and the like truly have been integrated as a useful tool in the workplace, and are very beneficial for optimizing communication and enabling efficient access to work.  It is important though to not let your relationship with your phone/work take precedent over the other relationships in your life.  So do you think PDA’s are a new commonplace for the business world that we can no longer to without?  What advice do you have on maintaining the structure of a work-life balance when technology makes the access to work that much more prevalent?  Do you agree with the article below?

NEWS
BlackBerrys and smart phones may have had a huge impact on executive and employee productivity but they also have a negative impact on work/life balance by making it more difficult to switch off from the office. A recent survey by RIM found an average BlackBerry user converts one hour of downtime to productive time each day and ups their overall team efficiency by 38 percent.

Kevin Fitzpatrick, CIO at Sodexho UK, said: “Improvement in productivity has been huge – the ability to respond immediately has been a real bonus for the company. Work/life balance swings dramatically to the company side of the scales.” Alan Shrimpton, IT director at Avon and Somerset Constabulary, said: “I can now use down-time – waiting to collect daughters, train journeys – to continue to read and action emails, which means I don’t have a huge queue waiting for me when I’m next in the office. It has, however, extended my working day.”

But for others the ability to use mobile devices and check and respond to email on the move reduces stress. Steve Gediking, head of IT and facilities at the Independent Police Complaints Commission, said his latest PDA has given him an efficiency gain of about half an hour a day using otherwise dead time. He said: “For example, after a recent long weekend I would normally have returned to around 150 emails. Instead, I spent an hour on my PDA the night before I was due back into work and the next morning I walked in to only six mails that required attention. Not only did this make me more efficient but it totally reduced my stress levels.”
For one IT director the BlackBerry has replaced the need to take a laptop for many work trips. Michael Elliot, IT director at toy maker Hasbro UK, said: “I connect to files and email on reaching affiliate offices or via the internet. Most mail can be dealt with through the BlackBerry and it doesn’t break your baggage allowance or back.”
Paul Haley, IT director at the University of Aberdeen, said: “Having used both a BlackBerry and Windows mobile devices I can honestly say that they have significantly improved the efficiency of myself and my colleagues. The technology both increases output by enabling what would otherwise be unproductive downtime to be used positively, and is liberating in that it allows flexibility and responsiveness. But the technology can be seductive and may lead to an ‘always on’ culture.”
But most agreed the productivity gains are worth any disapproving looks from partners at dinner parties when still responding to work emails at midnight.

Sue Yoe, director of technology, information and facilities at banking payments body Apacs, said: “I use a BlackBerry but have a separate phone so that I can forget about work emails but still remain connected for emergencies.” Rob Neil, head of ICT and customer services at Ashford Borough Council, said: “I think my BlackBerry has definitely improved productivity. I’m not sure about work/life balance but my wife has a very strong opinion on that subject since I got it.”
He said: “We are all benefiting from quicker response times to things that need actioning ‘now’. Communication between department managers is much quicker. The only problem I now foresee is the medical bill – key people are now walking the offices somewhat zombie-like, transfixed to the screen and not paying much attention to anything else. I swear our MD is going to trip over the photocopier soon – there’s always hope.”
http://www.silicon.com/management/cio-insights/2007/07/18/blackberrys-and-pdas-bad-for-worklife-balance-39167885/

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