January 20th, 2012
06:54 PM GMT
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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?



soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Martin Smith

    I have a work phone and a personal phone. My company paid for work phone is put away at 5pm and I dont look at it again till 8am the next morning. I dont get paid to answer emails or expected to after hours. Company phone also has text and other apps disabled anyway so I have a personal phone for that stuff with friends and family

    January 20, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
  2. Social Media Jedi

    I have a work phone and I have my work emails coming into it. On a few occasions I have it on my bedside table to read the first tweets of the day and to look at the Instagram feed as that is ften a nice way to start the day. My job is a Social media strategist for Philips Healthcare, and a blogger in my private time so it would not seem odd to be checking my phone a lot but you have to TRY and draw the line somewhere! It is hard though...

    January 20, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
  3. Rob

    I'm in the Army. There is no off-duty.

    January 20, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
  4. like eating

    Has anyone heard of globalization? I am a manager at a fortune 500 company and if my employees refuse to get blackberries and arent prepared to answer emails 24/7 they can find a different job. I have 10 applicants for every opening and love high unemployment...keeps people on their toes!

    January 20, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
  5. Seatle06

    "" like eating"" Work is good but you only live once and life is also about enjoying other things. Answering e-mails or phone calls 24/7 for work is ridiculous and you have to be a fool to support that. Your would fit perfectly in the Borg collective as a Drone.

    January 20, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
  6. marc ilikeitdark curcio

    Is this a Blackberry advert? Well, I guess its a nice change for all the Apple adverts...

    January 21, 2012 at 1:57 am |
  7. John Grabowski

    It's a terrible thing. We're "doing" more if you define doing as checking our phones. If you look at the quality of work in every field in the past decade, it has dropped off, sometimes drastically. I hardly expect anyone to be paying attention to what they're doing anymore. We are reacting, not thinking. There's a huge difference, it's extremely dangerous and it will cost us dearly in a long run in ways we cannot even imagine yet. There are two parts to intelligence–receiving information and processing it. We are so saturated with the first that we no longer do the second.

    January 21, 2012 at 2:08 am |
  8. Bor

    @Rob: Aren't you special. Guess what, no one cares.

    January 21, 2012 at 2:15 am |
  9. Meloney

    @Bor: I do not know who you think you are posting rude messages on a website at 2:15 a.m., but you certainly do not speak for all of humanity. In your assumptions, you have addressed a crucial flaw in our increasingly anonymous society, interacting with each other through media and decreasing our tolerance for annoyance. The author of the article requested responses and @Rob ceded to the request. While you may not agree with his response, a belief which may stem from ignorance, there is no need to pull the rest of us down with you and your negativity.

    January 21, 2012 at 2:39 am |
  10. Reg

    The world is using technology to force humanity into a neo-slavery, when actually it should have decreased our workloads while maintaining productivity. NOT increased productivity with increased or maintained workload.

    January 21, 2012 at 6:10 am |
  11. Jbird

    I would be willing to bet that your personal use of your electronic devices while at work comes very close to outweighing your work use of those devices while off work!

    January 21, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  12. jen

    I feel that maintaining connectivity outside of the workplace improves your performance rating by your boss and colleagues, not because they are thinking about you giving up your home time but because things happen fast and it's easier for them to have answers fast. As for eating at your desk being a sign of "dress-down" policies I strongly disagree. Where I come from working through your lunch is common. Being able to step away or go out for food is a luxury.

    January 22, 2012 at 12:18 am |
  13. ercan

    nofollow">http://www.boyacibadanaustasi.com/badanaThank you, this article has helped me to understand something very important. Great!

    January 22, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
  14. ceiling fan

    Get back to work, slaves!!! (their proudest achievement is that they've manipulated your minds to respond with feelings of being "empowered", "authentic" and "important", the more enslaved you become) It's absolutely amazing to observe, from afar.

    January 26, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
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    very sad situation See the elephant is dying and die

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    January 26, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
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  19. anonymous

    Like eating, are you for real? In case you haven't noticed, the people who work for you are real people with feelings. They are human beings, not your slaves.

    November 4, 2012 at 3:39 am |
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