Perhaps we remember the thrill of getting a company issued cell phone – we are now important enough that the company is going to pay to allow us to communicate. That delusion is quickly replaced by unrelenting assault that little device perform against our personal lives. In 2008, the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that employees with company phones often worked more than 50 hours a week, with 62 percent saying that having the gadgets triggered demands that they work more hours; 38 percent said that the demands increased “a lot.”
European companies have started to wake up against this invasion. For example Volkswagen has banned email to employees outside work hours – with the exception of senior management. Here in the “highly productive” U.S., we probably will never follow the examples of those “lazy” Europeans. We love our Blackberries, even when they are poisoning us.
Let us wake up to the fact that having a company issued phone really does not mean that you are important. When your company downsize, you’ll be gone regardless. To the contrary, the more your business is conducted over the network, the easier it is for your job to be outsourced to India.
“No!”, you might say, “if I miss my message, the company will suffer a great loss!”
Let’s look at this from another perspective. In the computer industry, we all know the value of having backup systems. Every system fails sooner or later – human beings included. To survive failures, we need backup plans. Those backup plans need to be up to date and exercised – that is why we have to have fire drills regularly. A well designed system cannot have a single point of failure, just as any building needs multiple fire escapes.
If your company suffers loss when you miss a phone call during your dinner, you are the company’s single point of failure. A well run company should have arranged for backup staff, and those backup staff should be well trained and authorized to make decisions in your place. In a well organized company, there should be no one who can hold the entire company hostage.
So if you get a lot of emails and phone calls after hours, or when you find yourself having to interrupt your family life to attend to business, do not rejoice and think that you are indispensable. You are just working for a dysfunctional company.