Ok, admit it. How reliant are you on your Blackberry, iPhone, Treo, or other PDA smartphone? Do you take advantage of every free moment to check for emails? Do you allow them to be pushed to your device at night? While on vacation?
You’re not alone.
Research In Motion, maker of the BlackBerry, lost almost 20% of its market cap in after-hours trading Thursday after a downbeat forecast. But it could have been because workers wanted someone to blame for losing their mornings, nights, weekends, vacations and sick days.
Wait! There’s actual meat behind this!
We only jest somewhat. A new study out this week by the Pew Internet and American Life Project studies the way people use technology in the workplace and the effect these technologies have on their lives. But here’s something that stands out: People who own BlackBerrys and similar devices pretty much never stop working.
I know that feeling, although I do keep my iPhone in a different room at night.
Seventy percent of device owners check work-related emails on the weekend, and 40% do so often. Fifty-five percent check work-related email on vacation, 25% often. Seventy percent check work-related email when they’re taking a sick day, and most regularly check in before going into the office and again when they get home at night. Forty-three percent check work-related email when they’re shopping or commuting.
I do check work email throughout the weekend, I do have the bad habit of taking my phone and computer on vacation, but I’ve already vowed to not do that again. Why, and what is the effect?
Why all the email checking? About half — 48% — say they are required to read and respond to email when they are away from work, according to the study.
In general, 49% of workers say that technology has made their lives more stressful. But surprisingly, people who own BlackBerrys don’t say that they’re any more stressed out than people without the devices. In fact, 71% said it has increased their flexibility.
I don’t think I’m more stressed; in fact, it takes serious effort to become stressed when you live in a small town on the coast and your commute is on empty roads through rolling vineyards. But that doesn’t mean being "always on" is healthy. I like my job and I’m positively enthralled by my myriad of side projects that also require serious internet connectivity… like this blog.
However there needs to be balance. Some health activists, admittedly a bit on the extreme side (even for California), advocate fasting a day a month to "cleanse the body." I’ve tried that, and it is surprisingly fulfilling. Almost as much as the burrito grande the next day. Perhaps something similar is needed for the always-on lifestyle.
A day "off." Or a week.
How? Andy posted a comment to the article I referenced with the following advice:
Here’s a simple trick to handle this type of issue. I find that turning off my BlackBerry when I leave the office works well. I turn it on when I arrive at work, in the morning.
Egads! God help us.