I talk to an increasing number of people who wake up in the morning and instantly grab their Blackberry from the bedside table to check work email. Dealing with work on your smartphone is a huge example of the end of work-life balance, but it’s not the only one. Conference calls with Asia at 2 a.m., getting reports done while on vacation, following work-related developments online over the weekend…it’s all typical for knowledge workers. Just as the news cycle has gone 24 hours, so has the work cycle.
It is because nobody outside of the assembly line works from 9 to 5 that the use of at-work networks for non-work-related activities should not only be tolerated by encouraged. A recent study — not conducted by an organization with a financial interest in helping companies bloock access — there are perfectly legitimate reasons for employees to engage in these non-work or semi-work-related activities while at the office and, further, that blocking could backfire and result in lost productivity.
(The study was published in the June issue of the CyberPsychology and Behaviour Journal.)
Leave it to some workers to want to return to the days of the clear line between work and leisure. CNN is reporting that employees are making noise about being compensated for the time they spend on their Blackberries while away from the office. Producers and reporters for ABC News have evidently reached an agreement with management to pay them for their smartphone activities. Lawyers are warning companies that they can expect more such demands.
Talk about shooting themselves in their collective feet. If a company pays you for the time you spend doing work away from the office, then they have every right to expect you will devote every minute in the office to work. And that’s just denial of the 24-hour work cycle that can only lead to complications of multiple stripes. From compensation practices to the fine line between online activities with and without work dimensions (for instance, representing your company well while engaging in primarily non-work networking), things could get very ugly in a hurry. It seems companies aren’t the only ones that need to wake up to the realities of the networked world. Add greedy, clueless employees (and, in some cases, the unions that represent them) to those ranks, too.