January 20th, 2012
06:54 PM GMT
London (CNN) – It’s Friday and many of you out there may already have gone home for the weekend. Some of you may be reading this on your smart phone or handheld computer.
But here are some questions for you: Should checking such devices for work correspondence count towards your overtime? And is it affecting your productivity when you are in the office?
A law introduced recently in Brazil says workers who check their smart phones after hours because of their job are entitled to extra pay.
After years of issuing staff with company Blackberrys, the tide is shifting in Europe too.
Germany’s Volkswagen last year moved to stop servers sending emails to some of its staff after they had gone for the day whilst consumer goods giant Henkel declared an email amnesty for the holiday season.
A conversation I had this week with the Financial Times management columnist Lucy Kellaway got me - a committed out-of-hours Blackberry fiend - thinking about the amount of work I bring home.
I kept a diary of my after-hours email usage over the course of three days and the findings made me sit up and think.
As an anchor on a show that is produced and presented out of London, Hong Kong and New York, the Blackberry blinks at all times of the day and night, as the team bridges three time zones that span 13 hours.
On an average day I receive just over a hundred emails. The first messages arrive at around 430 GMT and the last trickle through at around 2330 GMT.
Around a quarter of the emails I get come through once I’ve gone for the day.
Worse still: The amount of times I find myself checking my work phone. Researchers in the U.S. last year found that the average smart phone user looked at their device about 34 times a day.
A case in point: On Wednesday I attended a one-hour press conference and found myself checking my Blackberry 15 times during the time, amid a flurry of work emails.
On average my husband will berate me about twice a day for my out-of-hours emailing snapping "get off that thing" - though I catch him checking his Blackberry almost as often.
As young professionals we take it as read that we should keep abreast of what’s going on in the office no matter where we are or when it is.
Personally, I enjoy being contactable at all times. However, I do concede that the choice of being on-line or off-line at all hours is highly personal (and should stay that way).
But what effect are these habits having on our work?
"There used to be this golden age when we just worked nine-to-five," Kellaway says.
"We now work the whole time and at weekends but there’s absolutely no sign that we get more done in the end. When we respond to emails out of the office the quality our responses often isn’t the same."
For Kellaway the gradual erosion of our work-life boundaries also risks creating a more casual approach towards our professional environment, much like the "dressing-down" policies towards office attire in the year 2000.
"Now work and non-work have slid into each other. I mean, we see people eating cereal at their desks and their dry cleaning strewn across the building."
Bringing work home doesn’t just translate to a lack of discipline at one’s desk, it also makes individuals, more distracted at home.
A growing body of evidence points towards increasing addiction to smart phones, like Apple’s iPhone, Reasearch in Motion’s Blackberry and those phones that use Google’s Android operating system.
Yet it would be wrong to blame the humble work phone for the addiction to our inboxes and our failure to keep our work "at work."
The popularity of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter has changed the way we interact with devices that were once exclusively used as work tools - like Blackberry.
A 2011 survey for UK broadcasting watchdog Ofcom found a third of British adults were addicted to smart phones but the highest percentage of those over using their devices were teenagers who weren’t yet in work.
Personally I was horrified when my 13-year-old goddaughter was given one for her birthday and soon found she checked it more often than me - even though she didn’t yet have an email account.
What do you think? Is answering work emails a good or a bad thing?
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