No Time to Lose: A Search for Work / Life Balance

BlackBerrys ‘adding 15 hours’ to working week by notimetolose
September 20, 2009, 3:37 pm
Filed under: news articles | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Thanks for sending this along, Monika!

BlackBerrys ‘adding 15 hours’ to working week
Alan Jones, Press Association, Sunday 23 August 2009 19.23 BST
Reposted from:

Staff with mobile technology such as BlackBerrys work an extra 15 hours a week as they constantly check emails even when out of the office, new research found today. A survey of more than 600 employees revealed many were turning into workaholics because of the ability to receive and send messages and work online even when they were at home. The employment law firm Peninsula said the working week was being extended to about 55 hours for many people and urged employers to make sure their staff were not breaching working time regulations. PA

• This article was amended on Tuesday 25 August 2009. We said the working day was being extended to about 55 hours for many people; we meant the working week. This has been corrected.

8 Comments so far
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Although the “work everywhere with gadgets” manifesto is one of my favorite things to criticize, we should be careful about correlation vs. causation. Were the employees surveyed really only working 40 hrs / week before they got BB’s? (If so, can I work there?) Or did their extra hours just move from the office to their homes and other places?

I just got my first Blackberry, with the same dread that accompanied the purchase of my first cell phone. But also the same realization: Before I had a cell phone, I used to hang around the house waiting for phone calls. Once I got the cell, I could go out again. I soon discovered, it also has an off switch (my deliberate use of which remains undetectable, thanks to spotty cell coverage in southern California). Similarly, with the BB, I no longer spend hours behind the computer screen digging through mail I could have dealt with while standing in line for lunch. I have to be careful though, not to check mail when I should be doing something else. Fortunately, I am lazy, so this has not been much of a problem so far. This may become more of an issue when the norms of my peer group change, and other people begin to expect me to be in contact at all times.

Point here is not to brag about my outstanding self-control: believe me, I’m pretty terrible in that department. My point is that it’s easy to blame devices for our overwork. They do facilitate it, but they’re really just providing cover for the various humans that overwork us. Which in some cases, are ourselves.

Comment by uebergeek

Thanks for this comment, uebergeek!

Your points are well taken and I will openly say that I have not reviewed enough research on the issue to have a fully formed opinion. I reposted this article not as a validation of its content, but as a way of opening up conversation, so thanks for stepping forward in that regard!

Would you believe I own neither a BB nor a conventional cell phone? And I’m not remotely interested getting one, either. Having a cell phone in Europe was great — a mere 10 euro/month got me unlimited texting and internationally accessible voice service. The phone even worked in Canada! A minimum of $30/month spent in Canada, however, gets me squat. And let’s face it: I’d rather spend my money on martinis than air time 😉

But does not having a cell or dataphone prevent me from overworking? Hell no!

I’m a self-professed workaholic constantly saying I want to make the changes necessary to slow down, yet constantly failing to say no to interesting projects, including the ones that don’t even pay at all.

Sooooooooooooo… with all that in mind, yes! I agree with you! Having or not having a mobile device has no impact on whether I overwork, but I also think a lot of that has to do with my type of work… and possibly even your area of work… 100% self-directed, creative with ideas flowing beyond 9-5, basically non-profit where the bottom line is usually cultural and community oriented and profits are irrelevant, so motivation ends up having to do with potential impact, etc.

What the article prompts me to think about is the type of jobs (such as the kind of corporate non-management/administrative ones I’ve had in the past) that really *can* stay at the office. If an employer provides a dataphone, I get the sense they expect to be able to contact an employee at any time so people start thinking, oh man, I’d better check this thing regularly and keep it with me at all times. This, of course, leads to the silly competition between employees I’ve witnessed that involves sending work-related messages at weird hours just to say: look at me, I’m working overtime!

With job security as low as it is, I think a lot of people buy into the idea that they have to PROVE they are working above and beyond the call of duty to reduce their chances of being laid off, in comparison with people *not* demonstrably working overtime. This has nothing to do with the mobile devices themselves, except that it creates the deluded idea that it should be easier to constantly be on call. Yeah, sure, go out with your family and friends, but be prepared to interrupt anything if the boss calls because she/he signs your cheques and if you don’t look adequately committed, you can kiss your job goodbye.

Apples and oranges, chicken and egg… yeah… there is no direct correlation to my observations/hypothesis re the article, but I think the availability of the technology subliminally affects expectations concerning how the technology will be used. This is –not– the fault of the technology… it’s a matter of culture, and people becoming sufficiently empowered to challenge culture they find oppressive. … I think…


Comment by Milena

Good points! I agree about the competition to work round the clock – a race to the bottom that’s been going on in the US even before the current unemployment woes. Economic stratification created two classes of workers: a class of 9-5’ers who barely made ends meet vs. an “elite” class who thrived economically. I can attest that both classes included overworkers who felt the need to work at all hours to achieve whichever class they were in. Though I’ve never made much $, I remember in the days before cell phones, people from my jobs didn’t have too many qualms about calling me at all hours on the landline. So…

Comment by uebergeek

True true — everything you write!!

I have to remember that just because there has been more direct discussion about the unfair state of things now than say, 10 years ago, it’s been a long time in the making.

I didn’t get calls at home from my VP of Marketing Boss when I was an executive assistant in 2000/2001… but I’ll bet anyone in a position of consequence, even the account managers, faced much more pressure daily.

And now to figure out how to change all of this…

Comment by Milena

BTW, the “Salaried Exempt” worker status has been abused in the US as long as I’ve been working. Supposedly designed to exempt high level managers from working overtime, it’s often used for much lower level jobs. In the eighties, I had a job as an assistant manager at a record store, making about $11,800/yr USD – roughly $20,000 USD in today’s dollars. Since I was a manager, my job was designated Salaried Exempt. I routinely worked 70 hours a week and more for that same $11,800.

Comment by uebergeek

Oh crap =-( I’m so personally lucky to have only worked in places that either didn’t require overtime, kept time cards, or offered time in lieu of overtime pay (i.e. galleries, universities, etc).

That completely aside, what you point out is definitely the kind of thing we all need to remember, discuss, and speak out about if things are ever gonna change… and how I wish I knew more about what to do to make change…

Comment by Milena

BTW #2: As I was writing that last post, a synchronous moment happened to me. From a neighboring apartment, I could hear the song “Forever Young” by Alphaville. Back when I worked at the aforementioned record store, young people used to come in all the time looking for that song, which they wanted to use as their prom theme. We not-much-older, music-loving record store employees thought they were naive, as we understood the song to be about suicide. If you think about it, it’s a metaphor…

Comment by uebergeek


Comment by Milena

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