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A friend of mine was telling me about a date she was recently on. Things were going well. They had been out a few times prior and seemed to be hitting it off. However, after the light “How are you?” routine, he pulled out his BlackBerry. With a quick “Excuse me,” he began to answer his e-mails even before the appetizers arrived!
My friend was terribly disappointed. To her, he had mentally checked out of the date when that BlackBerry came out. She doesn’t care for men attached to their BlackBerrys, no matter how successful they are. For her, this was a turnoff. In my efforts to comfort her I reminded her that they were, in fact, together — at least he didn’t cancel due to business. Wasn’t that a good sign? I didn’t address the fact that a BlackBerry is addictive — it is nicknamed the Crackberry for a reason — but was it all that bad?
“It’s nickname, Crackberry, is apt. It takes discipline not to check for e-mail and even more to resist responding to what you find,” says Struan Robertson, editor of OUT-LAW.com. “Fortunately, it’s still a rare thing for people to chase up a non-urgent e-mail faster than 24 hours, at least for me.”
With BlackBerrys and PDAs, we now have it all. Take a dip in the pool at a resort in Jamaica and reply to our e-mails as we towel off. Aren’t these devices helping us achieve a work/life balance? Or are they an ongoing stressor?
“If the BlackBerry was given by the employer, the person may risk losing his job if he does not respond in a timely manner to whatever comes in from the employer on the BlackBerry,” says Dr. Carl G. Arinoldo, a New York-based psychologist and author on stress management.
“If a co-worker is depending on a reply, not responding can create much friction and animosity in the workplace.”
As young professionals, entering into a workplace where we can work from anywhere at anytime, are we walking in like animals to slaughter or as redefining the conventional? What exactly does it mean when you start a new job and are given a BlackBerry? Does it mean that you are obligated to a new level of responsibility? Are you always on call?
Khalid J. Hosein, chief gadgeteer at Gizmos For Geeks, says a reasonable employer should see it as a way to improve the employee’s productivity, particularly in cases where that employee may be on the road a lot for work. They should not see it as a way to tether their employees continually to the office and to the job.
“Ignoring your companions, but paying attention to your electronic communicator is usually in poor taste,” he says.
However, Hosein does add that many BlackBerry users manage their work and personal time well.
“Sure, it is more challenging, but not having your life/work balance in place is what makes that harder. Those with an already solid personal life won’t find this a challenge. In other words, they won’t feel the need to ‘unplug’ or divest themselves completely of their devices when outside of the office. The answer is to focus on other things that are just as, if not more, important than work.”
Arinoldo agrees while things like mobile phones, BlackBerrys, and laptops may encourage workaholic tendencies in some, they will not create a workaholic. “If a person is a workaholic, then we would tend to see this type of intensive behaviour in other areas of his or her life.”
Hosein suggests asking your employer what is their policy regarding carrying such a device so the ground rules can be set.
“Company policy aside, it is up to the BlackBerry/cell user to set the expectations of those around him/her.”