According to a Wall Street Journal report the huge crash that left thousands of American Blackberry users without web or email connectivity for ten hours, or ‘a lifetime’ as most of them described it, was caused by a simple, non-critical software upgrade that just had not been tested properly before rolling out.
OK, so the thought of a bunch of suits, lawyers, marketing folk and the idle rich pretending they are important professionals being without their mobile email for a bit does not really equate to a breakdown of business in America. Email is pretty easy to come by without a Blackberry, wherever you may be in the US. Ditto web access. Indeed, you could argue that the real breakdown was amongst those professional users who discovered that they really are addicted to their crackberries.
Leading psychologist Professor Graham Jones of performance development consultancy Lane4 certainly thinks that it was evidence of a growing trend towards gadget addiction and warns not to get hung up on them in case they hang up on you.
“The virtual office has indeed revolutionized the way we do business but what about the unwanted side effects when the line between business and pleasure becomes blurred? Managers may have the luxury of being able to manage their workload whenever wherever, but increasingly they’re losing their grip on a healthy work life balance,” said Professor Jones in a press release today. “Today’s mobile manager is never ‘away from his desk’ and whether it’s an evening, a weekend or even a holiday abroad with the family, he or she is expected to be on call to deal with any eventuality. Indeed, it’s not unusual to see people talking on their mobile phones or even typing away at their laptop while sipping cocktails at the poolside. Research by The Work Foundation has found that 30% of Britons are failing to take their annual leave entitlement and it is because they are too busy.”
The big question is whether this dependence is a healthy one or not I guess. Is there really any harm being done in making use of mobile technologies to keep in touch both on a personal and professional basis? Mobile working is the norm these days, and as long as we are sensible about it and allow ourselves some breathing space away from the desk in our pocket that should be OK, right? Professor Jones is concerned that the Blackberry culture is driving us towards a requirement to always be in touch with our boss, and a consequential inability to work properly without that lifeline.
“Working with large national and multi-national companies, we often come across workforces who, on realizing they don’t have their boss on hand to deal with any queries or problems, seize up with fright. While this may indicate that there is a definite leader amongst the workforce – someone to turn to in times of trouble – there is usually very little sign of team work in these environments. Each individual regards themselves as having a job to do without realizing that each plays a vital role in achieving a common goal.”
But again, surely this all comes down to some common sense working practice, good training and a management team who understand the importance of drawing a line between work life and social life. If managers and the rest of the team alike cannot learn to switch off, figuratively and literally, then we are likely to see more evidence of nervous breakdown bubbling to the surface in the future. Just because the Blackberry isn’t working does not mean that you can’t.