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Does Constant Access Shatter the Home/Work Boundary?

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the and-is-that-a-bad-thing dept.

Handhelds 321

StonyandCher has passed us a link to PCWorld.au, once again raising the tough topic of work/life separation. A department of the Australian government went ahead with a purchase of dozens of Blackberry communication devices, but is now delaying their deployment. The reason: "Staff expressed fears about BlackBerries contributing to a longer working day and felt it was going a step too far because mobile phones are adequate for out-of-office contact. Not everyone agreed, however, with some senior executives claiming a BlackBerry can contribute to work/life balance by facilitating telecommuting and more flexible schedules. " For the time being this issue is on hold for those staffers, but how does this issue fall for you? Is constant accessibility freeing or just another chain around your neck?

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this is incumbent upon the employee (5, Interesting)

yagu (721525) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697462)

I know employers can apply pressure, but employees should try to establish early and firmly what extended accessibility means. Pagers have been around for millenia, Blackberrys simply give better message.

Arrange and agree to a schedule for which you consider yourself "on call", publish those times, and make it clear you aren't "on call" when you aren't.

Personally, I see the encroachment more often by those who have some tension with their personal life whereby this constant connectivity to their job elevates somehow their status, and provides instant and real-time reason/excuse to be unavailable in their personal lives. In other words, lots of those who "get connected" like this do so willingly, and with a certain sense of self-importance.

My other observation has been that those who are not to be bothered by work when they're not expected to be available off-hours simply don't carry their Blackberry, or turn it off.

I know there's always the exception, but I think most employer-employee relationships can and do strike equilibrium with minimal fuss. If your employer is that horrid in their insistence and demands, find another employer. I did.

Re:this is incumbent upon the employee (2, Funny)

phillips321 (955784) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697504)

It wont be long before people find the solution to this problem...
http://forumpix.co.uk/i.php?I=1197646911 [forumpix.co.uk]

Re:this is incumbent upon the employee (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21697594)

the solution to your solution
http://forumpix.co.uk/i.php?I=1197647125 [forumpix.co.uk]

Ditto what he said. (5, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697598)

Seriously - Those of us who are SysAdmins have dealt with this for ages...

You negotiate beforehand what happens when the pager goes off - either you get 'overtime', comp-time off, or your salary begins large enough to compensate you for the projected time spent on pager-duty. Not much different w/ a Crackberry...

If you get one issued to you, demand compensation for the added work that's sure to come with it - either through more flexible scheduling, more money, more comp/vacation time, or something substantial.

I have a decent setup where I'm at now - if I get a call, then the time spent gets deducted the next day or day after, or they pay me overtime based on 1.5x my salary broken down to an hourly rate (based on a typical 40hr week). Pretty simple after that.

Now, if you're adamant about delineated time-off vs. time-on, then simply state as much before you start.

But, like the parent said... most employers are perfectly okay with this, and it's only a minimum of haggle. Any employer who isn't needs to be dropped for one who is.

/P

Re:this is incumbent upon the employee (4, Insightful)

MBCook (132727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697624)

I agree. It's the employee's fault. They're willing to put up with it. There was a time before cell phones when the same kind of thing was true. If you were a town doctor in the 1800s, you think you got to say "I'm only open 8-5, M-F"? People got sick when they got sick. Accountants didn't have to take their work home, but it was known that as a doctor you were on call all the time.

If you don't like it, push back, let your work know that when you aren't on call, you're not on call. This is just a boundaries issue. People don't want to set them (afraid of repercussions, don't know they have the option, like the "piece of mind" they get from being able to watch what's going on at work, whatever)... so they put up with this.

Blackberries are just a symptom/enabler. They make this problem easier to occur than during the '60s (when bringing your work home or to vacation meant hauling a bunch of papers and books and such).

People just need to learn to adapt to this change and handle it. Just like people are being forced to invent manners and limits for other things that weren't considered before (like cell phones). That's our transition that we're going through now.

Re:this is incumbent upon the employee (3, Insightful)

SetupWeasel (54062) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697808)

If you don't like it, push back, let your work know that when you aren't on call, you're not on call. This is just a boundaries issue.

No, no. This is an employment issue. You could lose your job for "pushing back." Some people don't have that option.

Re:this is incumbent upon the employee (3, Insightful)

MBCook (132727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697888)

If you don't want to be on call, don't take a job that expects you to be on call. If the job you took didn't including being on call and they want you to be, tell them no... that wasn't in the job description. You could negotiate for something ("You want me to start being on call, that's an expansion in my responsibilities, will my compensation go up as well?"). If you took a job where you were on call and don't like it too bad. That's the job you took and you signed up for it.

If everyone who had this problem actually stood up, they wouldn't fire people because there wouldn't be enough people left. You're not helpless.

Also, remember that some of these people don't have that responsibility. They just check their blackberry out of habit. They don't need to. It's all their choice. They aren't being forced into it, they are choosing it then complaining about it.

Work doesn't have to be fun. It's a means to an end: being able to take care of and feed yourself and your family. It's not your personal satisfaction center. That's nice if it is, but people used to understand that. A lot of this just sounds like whining to me.

Re:this is incumbent upon the employee (5, Insightful)

SetupWeasel (54062) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698124)

If everyone who had this problem actually stood up, they wouldn't fire people because there wouldn't be enough people left. You're not helpless.

Yes, but if you are the only one...

Also, remember that some of these people don't have that responsibility. They just check their blackberry out of habit. They don't need to. It's all their choice. They aren't being forced into it, they are choosing it then complaining about it.

I am a tutor. I have taken shit from my boss, because she couldn't reach me Wednesday night to change my schedule for Thursday. Changing my hours at will was not in the job description, and I don't even make enough at the job to sustain me. I look for more or other work. I've been looking for 4 months, and guess what? If I find a job that will be a dick about my free time, I have to take it.

Work doesn't have to be fun. It's a means to an end: being able to take care of and feed yourself and your family. It's not your personal satisfaction center. That's nice if it is, but people used to understand that. A lot of this just sounds like whining to me.

Spoken like management. There was a time when jobs offered benefits, job security, and respect for their employees.

Re:this is incumbent upon the employee (1, Insightful)

MBCook (132727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698374)

I'm not management. I'm a 24 year old programmer. I'm not anyone's superior. A job is just a job. You think people loved working in coal mines? They did/do it because they have to. It puts food on the table. Some may like it, but they know it's hard work and has to be done. Good jobs offered benefits, security, and such. Mine does. But not all do. Pizza delivery people never got perks or job security.

You're in a people business, and in those kind of jobs being able to be reached for things like scheduling changes are more important. My post was more aimed at people in corporate cultures who feel invaded by blackberries and such. Your position needs someone to do that. It could be a central secretary managing 15 people, or it can be you. Service jobs are different from white collar jobs.

There are mitigating factors. The higher your salary/importance, the more this applies. Obviously a McDonald's burger flipper couldn't say this stuff if it applied to them, they would be replaced too easily.

Re:this is incumbent upon the employee (1)

fatlaces (848825) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697960)

Right on. Don't put up with too crap. Especially if you are younger, they'll bully you into bending over for them. Also live your real life without Office on your computer.

I decided on no Microshaft software on my Leopard PowerBook except for a codec or 2. No Office, No Open Office even, no remote desktop, VNC, or other workarounds.

The platform of choice isn't important as not even trying to be connected to work. Your stress levels will thank you.

Re:this is incumbent upon the employee (0)

arivanov (12034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698404)

"I'm only open 8-5, M-F"? People got sick when they got sick. Depends where are you. In the UK - hell yeah. It was that way and is that way. Here if your kid id in a comatose state with 40+C you will be asked to take it to the GP during the opening hours and will wait there for 2 hours until your appointment or until your kid needs to be ferried to AE in an ambulance. And the doctor visitng anybody besides pensioners at their home? Forget it.

Other countries - definitely not. Completely different story. My granddad was a village GP for nearly 30 years. I remember visiting him as a kid. It was more than 15 years after he retired and there were still people knocking on the door in the middle of the night. Every time he stood up, put his old raincoat, got his old handbag in hand and went. The last time he did it was just a few weeks before he died. No "8-5. M-F", no "call the HotLine, I am unavailable".

Both are cases at each end of the scale. The balance is somewhere in the middle. Work should not encroach onto your personal life beyond a certain limit. At the same time there are emergencies and they should be handled by everyone who can with some reasonable distribution of duties. It should not be piled up onto one person.

Re:this is incumbent upon the employee (2, Interesting)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697630)

For some reason I got incredibly excited about the idea of being able to access company email remotely, mostly just because of the geek factor. I've had to setup a few blackberrys for some of my users and I hated them, but I like how Windows Mobile Direct PUSH synchronises directly with our Exchange server without any modifications (obviously because they're both microsoft products, but exchange is one of the few Microsoft products that is worth the money..). Anyway, after being excited about it for a couple of weeks, I quickly got fed up of the way that I ended up doing extra work in the evenings by replying to emails on my phone, and stopped. The facility is still there for emergencies though..

Sadly my IT assistant keeps his phone on all the time, and in fact was emailing/MSNing me about work matters this week even though he's on holiday. He's going to charge for overtime, but still, I find the very idea of doing work on holiday sickening, even if you're an MD or something (where it's more likely that you really do need to be connected). My uncle once spent what seemed like half of our family holiday in France on his mobile.. yuck.

Re:this is incumbent upon the employee (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698406)

even if you're an MD or something (where it's more likely that you really do need to be connected).

At least MD's are traditionally excellently paid in exchange for being there to handle emergencies and other urgent situations.

They also, at least later in life, are able to reduce their workload in other ways to compensate - like having office hours be 10-4 for routine stuff.

Re:this is incumbent upon the employee (2, Interesting)

trbofly (762792) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697702)

Now, I imagine I make a little more than the likely (14$ per hour) average /. reader, however I have been on-call my entire career.

Since 19 I have carried a pager, cell phone, laptop, or some combination of the three with me where ever I go. Its in my car at all times or within 5 mins of where I am. (Except my private motorcycle times when the weather is warm)

My wife knew what she was getting into when she married me, so it hasnt been an issue of contention there. Aside from 1 CEO who abused my availability (SWH I am talking to you. Jerk), I have been able to balance the two.

What I am getting at is that I go into each negotiation knowing I will be on-call. I dont take a position unless I am making what I should, includding my afterhours time. I have been lucky enough that the coroporations want me badly and to date havent had an issue.

I sort of agree with the parent that on-call made me feel important in the beginning. I was young. I am well past that and see it as just another day in the office.

T

Re:this is incumbent upon the employee (1)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697864)

[quote]Now, I imagine I make a little more than the likely (14$ per hour) average /. reader, however I have been on-call my entire career.[/quote]

I think (or hope) you're vastly underestimating the average /. reader's salary there, but who knows. At any rate, that level of pay is way too low to be on call 24x7 in my opinion, unless you live in a third world country or get massive bonuses for pager pay.

Anyway, when I worked at small mom and pop ISPs where I was the only sysadmin (or one of two or three), I was on call constantly, and I dealt with it. However, if your company has the staff to at least rotate on call, they should do it. Being on call constantly will burn people out very quickly. Even if you don't get called, the limits that on-call can put on your leisure time (no trips outside of cell range, must be within a short distance of Internet access) can be quite stressful over time. Sure, if your life is your work it's probably not so bad, but what kind of life is that?

Where I work now, the junior and intermediate admins are hourly employees, and the senior level guys are on salary. If you're hourly, and you work in the offhours, you get 1.5x overtime. If you're salaried, you get comp time. On call is rotated between members of a team, and most people will be on call around once every 4 to 8 weeks depending on the size of the team. Since we have people in the command center on staff 24x7, we only get called for escalations, and we get paid $125 per weekend day ($50 per weekday day) that we're on call, whether we get called or not.

As I get older, I am constantly amazed at what people are willing to put up with from their employers. I see employment as a simple business deal: you are exchanging your services for compensation. Like any business deal, if both sides are not getting what they need from it, they should seek to either renegotiate or terminate the relationship. If your employer is abusing your good work ethic by calling you all the time for non-emergency things (meaning the building is not actually on fire), especially if they aren't paying you anything extra for it, then you either need to have a talk with your employer or go find another one.

Re:this is incumbent upon the employee (1)

trbofly (762792) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698210)

I was trying to make a joke by insulting the general population of /. readers. Guess it didnt work.

I expect a lot from my employees, however I am very honest with them about those expectations when I hire them. We rotate on-call and I expect them to answer when their week is up. If they dont like it, then dont take the job.

If you ask my employees I hope they will tell you that our arrangement is not a huge impact to their lives.

There seems to be a level of entitlement with most IT workers these days. You are correct that employment is a simple business contract. I expect those who choose to join my team to live up to that contract. Its sole purpose is to pay an employee to work for the sole benefit of the company.

Personally I care about my employees. I hope they have a great family life and we do alot to make sure they have time to themselves, time off or half days when needed. Even telecommuting options for the developers. However professionally they are expected to fill their position to my expectations. If they do not want to be on-call or it impacts their life, move on.

I am actually a really nice guy, but if I interview one more "Micro Skills" graduate who thinks they should be making 6 figures because thats what the TV ad told them, I will seriously go postal..

Re:this is incumbent upon the employee (1)

Arda Valinor (1201625) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697850)

I couldn't agree more.

Respectfully Disagree (1)

dsginter (104154) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697856)

You are correct: employees *should* be able to manage this.

But, in the real world, situations vary.

Pagers have been around for millenia, Blackberrys simply give better message.

With pagers, someone had to make the conscious decision to bother someone at the other end of a pager. With Blackberry devices, someone in Japan might send an email - when it is convenient for them - to someone in New York when it is not convenient. If the recipient hasn't configured the device's privacy schedule, then they will be notified of the email. Again - not everyone is a geek and configuring a privacy profile on a Blackberry isn't easy for everyone.

I'd be inclined to agree with you completely if a technical fix weren't so trivial - if RIM simply created a privacy profile that could be enforced by employers, then we wouldn't be discussing this. If I set a week of vacation in my calendar, then the Blackberry should automatically force itself to disconnect during this period. And please don't get caught up in the minutiae - it goes without saying that exceptions could be easily accommodated.

Re:this is incumbent upon the employee (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21698094)

I'm a Regional Manager in Colorado, there is no local office here so I do all of my work Remotely. I've got a cell phone and I am on call 24/7 to deal with issues that come up.

When I first started the position, it was difficult to separate work from home since my home was where I worked. I eventually got tired of answering emails all day long from when I got up to when I went to sleep. I have to answer the phone whenever it rings and I just didn't want to do that with emails.

So, I set up my own workday for emails. Once I get to 5:00, I don't respond to emails until the next day. Like a lot of other geeks who spend all day on the computer, I do frequently use my computer to unwind at the end of the day by doing non-work stuff. If I get an email, I can read it, but - unless it's a drastic emergency - all I do is read it. (If it is a drastic emergency, I'm usually about 10 seconds away from getting a call about it anyway)

It's worked great for me, and I highly suggest it. If you can't get yourself away from answering the phone, at least take emails out of the equation and check them then next day. Because really, if something ACTUALLY can't wait until morning, someone's going to get ahold of you in an other way than email.

Your email won't be going anywhere, it'll be waiting for you when you're ready for it! :)

You are a moron (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21698416)

Sure this makes a lot of sense. Stack up your corporation, with its billionaire owners, legions of lawyers, HR people and managers versus - yourself, a little techie who is just another gear in the big machine. In the US, inflation-adjusted wages have not been stagnant over the past 35 years, they've been dropping, while working longer hours. This I think is primarily due to lots of clones of yourself, quixotically trying to fight the entire system by themselves. Your grand solution is if one of the companies is below the low level of par that exists now, you can leave, which is kind of like a slave threatening to run off to another plantation if the master whips him more than normal.


Of course, I'm sure you're a genius and you can try to impress us with stories of how your managers love you so much you go to work when you wanted on your last job.


Idiots like this guy is why the average union electrician has a better career than the average. But of course, why should such a genius as you have to deal with things like job security and seniority - since you have no social life and your life revolves around work, you are superior to your co-workers and recognition of that is the important thing. Barf.

Yes, it's a problem (4, Informative)

s.d. (33767) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697490)

Aside from the fact that my manager sometimes asks me to take my BlackBerry with me when I go on vacation (which I refuse to do), it's really easy to just look at it in the evenings or on weekends to see if there's any mail and check on things. I have taken to setting the automatic power down/power on setting, so I am not tempted to sneak a peak when I walk past it when I'm at home. I never check work mail on the computer in my free time, but the BlackBerry makes it so easy, it doesn't feel like I'm working until I've sunk 2 hours into something that could have waited until the morning.

Re:Yes, it's a problem (1)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697942)

This is exactly why I don't have a phone with email capability. If I ever do get one, I won't configure it for my work email. My cell phone number is readily available to anyone with an emergency situation at the office. If they need it, they can use it (but someone had better be dying if they do, or someone will be dying shortly after). I do occasionally check my work email from home, but I never, ever answer it from home (and believe me, sometimes that takes some effort to avoid). Anything sent by email is assumed to not be of earth-shattering importance. If it was so important that it couldn't wait until morning, they would have called.

Of course, when I'm not on call, I may not answer my phone immediately anyway. In those cases, if it's really important, they'll either leave a voice mail or call someone else on the team.

Just turn it off (2, Insightful)

Hanners1979 (959741) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697498)

Staff expressed fears about BlackBerries contributing to a longer working day

Just going out on a limb here, but couldn't they switch it off when they don't want to be working?

Re:Just turn it off (4, Insightful)

DeeQ (1194763) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697582)

The problem with just turning them off is the company will frown upon that. They didn't purchase these for their employees to not use them. No matter how you look at it weather it be only 5 extra min or 2 hours of extra work being accessible via Email at any time. People want to go home after a long days work and not have to deal with all the problems of them. I can see why they would be fearing having them, but turning them off could arise problems with staff.

Blame the machine. (1)

wattrlz (1162603) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697868)

If you're really too lily-livered to just turn the machine off when you're alseep/with the kids/can't be arsed just say the darn this was broken/malfunctionning and get back to it when you can.

Auto-on/off setting actually works (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21697796)

I started using a BlackBerry 950 in 1999. Having been tethered with a numeric pager for 3 years in a prior operations job, I immediately set expectations about carrying it and responding to it after hours. I wasn't in an operations job anymore, so i wouldn't. If they needed me bad enough, they could look up my home phone number in the phone book and call. I don't believe in cell phones either.

Then I found the "auto-off / on" setting and had it turn off at 6pm and back on at 7am. Done.
A few years later, the new Blue-Berry model came out and I was part of a trial to determine if 14K upgrades were needed. Nope. Only the Mobitext network change forced that a few years later. However, I quickly set my auto-on/off settings to 6p/7a and didn't have **any** non-important email forwarded to it. I like to read and handle email only once since I was getting 300+ messages a day. Seeing them more than once is a waste of my time. After a while, everyone got used to me not responding immediately to emails (I was a technical architect, not some Project Manager or operations or other job where I can make up answers without double checking them first), including my chain of command. Managing expectations.

Fortunately, my managers never seems to have an issue with those settings because I almost never left something hanging that needed to be handled that day when I left. About 3 times in the last 8 years did I keep the pager on overnight, but I always KNEW that something could happen that would need my attention on a project. I routinely worked 20-50 projects each year from adding 2 disks to installing 60 fairly large HP servers across 15 locations ($24M budget) with redundant DS3 networking between them all.

I retired about a month ago at 41 yrs old. Nice work if you can get it. I turned in my laptop, SecurID, and BlackBerry 8200. I honestly don't miss them. I do miss the people, however. In fact, I'm meeting an old work friend for lunch today.

Blackberry's are a tool. Use them as such, don't let them, or your boss abuse you.

Re:Auto-on/off setting actually works (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21698448)

I retired about a month ago at 41 yrs old.

*sigh* As someone who isn't that far away from 41, do you have any advice as to how you pulled that off? Personally I'm thinking I'm going to need to continue working until 115 before I can retire.

Yes. (4, Insightful)

TheRealFixer (552803) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697508)

At least, I know it does for me. There are plenty of times now I wish we had never gotten these stupid Blackberries. Once your management knows that they can get a hold of you via email any time, any place, they suddenly expect that to be the norm. With plain old cell phones, it requires a personal interaction that feels much more intrusive. When you shoot off an email, it doesn't feel the same. You don't feel bad about it, like you do when you call someone and interrupt their dinner. Which makes people much more likely to do it.

Re:Yes. (1)

ookabooka (731013) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697734)

See I would have thought it'd go the other way. I feel like I can safely ignore email since if it were urgent I would receive a phone call. I suppose being the curious gentleman that I am I would be tempted to check my email more frequently with the blackberry. Wouldn't the problem be in how the employee handles the email? If you can ignore the temptation to read your email on your time or simply don't act on it until you're on the clock what's the harm? If an employer expects you to always be on call and to respond quickly to emails even when you aren't working you need to renegotiate your wages/hours.

As a side note I do have a cellphone that I use to read my emails (HTC Hermes) but I read them during boring meetings usually :-p

It's your choice. (1)

C10H14N2 (640033) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697936)

Email doesn't feel intrusive precisely because it /isn't/ immediate. You haven't actually contacted the person until the time they choose to allow it. It's only "any time, any place" if you choose to sit there glued to that damned screen. Put the CrackBerry down and walk away. You'd be amazed how many people will never notice you're ignoring them.

Re:Yes. (1)

pimpimpim (811140) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698326)

You check your blackberry during dinner at home?

I've heard people say... (5, Insightful)

Loibisch (964797) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697520)

I've heard people say "thank god I'm not eligible [meaning high enough in the food chain] to get one of those" over where I work. So I'd say people definitely fear the intrusion of work into privacy and I understand totally. There's got to be a time where you have to be able to say "I'm sorry, but I was out and couldn't check company mail".

Re:I've heard people say... (1)

sricetx (806767) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697610)

It's an easy solution - During business hours, Monday through Friday 9am to 5pm, allow your employer to contact you via your mobile device. Outside of business hours, turn the thing off or don't respond to messages from your employer. They are not paying you to work 100% of the time, so they can pound sand. There is absolutely nothing so important that it can't wait until the next business day. If your employer is expecting you to be on call 24/7 then you have an abusive employer and I would recommend finding a job elsewhere. Note that if you are in IT or support, the situation may be different, but you signed up for that lifestyle.

Re:I've heard people say... (2, Insightful)

Loibisch (964797) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698040)

All is good in theory. Yes, you might have an abusive employer...but without having a blackberry and the need to decide what to do about it in your free time forced on you there wouldn't be a problem in the first place.

In other words: you might have an abusive employer but it might not ever show.

Re:I've heard people say... (1)

mccalli (323026) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697768)

There's got to be a time where you have to be able to say "I'm sorry, but I was out and couldn't check company mail".

Indeed, there's got to be a time where you are able to "I was out and unavailable for company mail". Forget sorry and couldn't - my time is mine.

I actually do some work voluntarily from home, but it's time I've arranged and not just random "hope you're available" time. And it remains my ambition in life to never own a blackberry.

Cheers,
Ian

Re:I've heard people say... (1)

MBCook (132727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697934)

Let me translate. That probably means one of three things.
  1. I'm afraid of responsibility
  2. I don't think I'd have enough strength to be able to control myself with that and not let work take over my personal life, or stand up for myself when work starts asking me to be on call all the time
  3. I wouldn't want my position to involve being expected to be on call all the time
I see no problem with #3, but I think for most people that statement probably means #2.

Re:I've heard people say... (4, Interesting)

nine-times (778537) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698352)

What I find funny about the Blackberry thing is that, in a couple places that I've worked, they were being used pretty much exclusively for middle-management. The lowly helpdesk techs supposedly weren't important enough to get one, in spite of the fact that it would be really useful for them to receive e-mail when they were away from their desks "in the field". Then a bunch of managers who were at their desks all day anyway had them. But then, oddly, the executive team didn't have Blackberries.

I once asked one of the VPs about it, and he basically said, "We let the managers get them because it makes them feel important and they aren't that expensive. But I sure as hell don't want to be on-call 24 hours a day." I felt like I learned something right there. The trappings of power are usually most appreciated by those who don't really have any. Those guys who spend a lot of time trying to show you who's boss are specifically those who aren't "the boss". The people who are really in charge don't necessarily feel the need to prove it to you.

It depends on when it is used. (5, Insightful)

JerryLove (1158461) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697524)

I would think this rather obvious: using a black-berry to receive emails when you are out in the field during your business day is enabling remoteness, while using it to return emails at dinner is removing the work/home distinction. I don't generally see a black-berry as offering a distinct advantage over a cellphone with text messaging in the case of those "get everyone on the phone, the server is down" emergencies... and if you are doing routine emails during your off-hours then they are not off-hours.

Two-sided (2, Interesting)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697526)

On the one hand, I enjoy the flexibility of having my laptop come home with me, so that if something happens and I can't get to my office, I can still work. On the other hand, I get obsessive with problems I can't solve, so there's the pitfall of going home, logging in, and continuing to work. It's up to the individual to control their use. Now, if your supervisor begins pressuring you to work more... that's a whole different ballgame, but still, you have to push back when work bleeds into your home life to the point that it interferes too much.

Yes, but I waste more time on the clock (5, Insightful)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697528)

The consequence is that I also don't work that hard when I'm actually at work.

It's easier for me to justify randomly screwing around on the internet or working on personal coding/whatever at work because I wind up checking email and working over weekends to get things done. I think it's fair. They steal some of my free time, I waste some of their paid time.

Re:Yes, but I waste more time on the clock (5, Insightful)

ookabooka (731013) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697652)

Hardly sounds like a long term solution though, eventually you'll just go to work and not do anything, only to come home and then start working. . .? In your case I think it's more important to keep work and pleasure separate rather than trying to keep them balanced. Otherwise you end up spending all your time "working" but accomplishing little.

Re:Yes, but I waste more time on the clock (1)

MBCook (132727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698046)

So what? If I do my work, why should they care? If my job allows me*, I should be able to do this kind of thing. I'd jump on a problem if it came up. That's expected.

* What I mean by "allows me" is that the job is setup in a way that this isn't a problem. As an accountant who has a big assignment that will take me a week, or a programmer who already has the scope and just need to do the coding, this should be fine. If you a help desk representative, a lawyer or accountant who needs to meet clients, or some other people facing job this way of working obviously wouldn't work out.

Re:Yes, but I waste more time on the clock (1)

weicco (645927) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697846)

If someone calls me outside office hours it's fine by me. If I'm not doing anything like sitting in the toilet or having quality time with my wife I'll answer and charge one hour salary for that 5 minute phone call.

Re:Yes, but I waste more time on the clock (3, Interesting)

MBCook (132727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697990)

A man gets a Bill from his lawyer.

Jim,

I was walking down the street the other day and I thought I saw you. I called
out your name and crossed the street to say "Hi", but it wasn't you after all.

15 minutes of my time - $200

That is an excellent solution to the problem, but I doubt many people would have the guts to go through with it.

Its only a problem (1)

sizzzzlerz (714878) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697534)

if you let it be one. A job doesn't necessarily mean 24/7 accessibility.

Re:Its only a problem (1)

hypergreatthing (254983) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697686)

Some people don't have a choice. It really depends on management's view on things. Some of them don't even consider time you take to respond on your own time at home as work and will consider it as norm, ask for it as a rule. Gone are the good old days where people can just say, "sorry everyone left for the day, we'll get on it tomorrow mornining" and are replaced with "I'll get him on the phone right away, we'll have this done tonight".

The whole telecommuting thing is BS. If you spent 2 hours at home one night solving someone's problem they'll expect you to be in on time and will complain if your late 30 minutes the next morning. People expect to own your life. Welcome to work in the 21st century.

Re:Its only a problem (1)

crunzh (1082841) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698248)

I completely agree with this. Its nice to be able to check email from home, esp as I am a student and only work part time but it doesn't mean you absolutely have to do it.

saves the travel (5, Insightful)

jeffreyMartin (1115859) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697548)

I'd rather have the crackberry (or mobile phone, or notebook) available if I *need* to do something, than have to run to the office on a saturday because of one forgotten task or reply. And yes, you can turn it off!

Re:saves the travel (1)

mamono (706685) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697802)

I agree, yes I'm always accessible if needed but it also truly does give me schedule flexibility. I can leave early, come late, if someone needs me they send an e-mail. I'll get it on my BlackBerry, log in via VPN and take care of it. If it's urgent and I'm not at the office I can call someone who is and walk them through it.

Im constantly monitoring not necessarily available (5, Interesting)

penfold69 (471774) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697550)

I have a blackberry 8800, which revolutionised how I work.

I have several email addresses routed to it, which each have different notification tones. If I receive a Nagios alert to my "Oh Crap" email address, the notification is loud and insistent. If I receive personal mail, it's subtle. Business mail is also fairly quiet and subtle but different to personal mail.

Outside of "working hours", I can choose to ignore it easily enough. Only if our monitoring system picks up something alert-worthy do I have to actually bother actioning something immediately.

When I was first offered the blackberry, I made it clear to the MD that this would not intrude upon my personal life unnecessarily. If I *choose* to read my business emails outside of working hours, then all fine. I balance that with *choosing* to read my personal mail during work hours :)

P.

Re:Im constantly monitoring not necessarily availa (1)

pcsmith811 (886216) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697740)

First thing I did years ago when I got a BlackBerry was turn the email notification sounds/vibrations off. Aside from the fact I get way more email that I'd like to, I know I would want to check it once I hear it. By having it off, I check it on my terms. I don't have a typical 8-5, have to be in the office job, so for me the BlackBerry is a huge asset and time saver. When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is grab my BlackBerry and see how my day is lining up so far. Occasionally, I get a sneak a bit more sleep :) Also, change your emails signatures to be identical from both your email client and BlackBerry and people won't know where you sent it from!

Re:Im constantly monitoring not necessarily availa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21697758)

I agree with this.

After accidentally destroying my Motorola Razr, which I received alerts on, I went ahead and purchased a Blackberry Curve, the 8320.

The difference in phones is astounding, and not only that, the service was cheaper with the different provider I chose--and gave me many more options.

I can even use the blackberry as a modem to get online if my cable connection goes out, power, what have you.

I work remotely much of the time, and this blackberry lets me take my office anywhere I can use my laptop--and with the chat and email, I might not even be anywhere near my laptop, (such as slacking) and still respond to mail and chats and give the appearance that I am at work (chat is used as the "are you working" sort of attendance roll call), or can respond to things while on the way somewhere.

Before the black berry, being on call (with a 15 minute response time) meant being chained home during the on-call times. Not anymore. As long as I am within driving range of the data center, I can go out and do anything, and connect remotely with the blackberry as a modem. Sure, I have to take the laptop with me--but I can go out to eat, or even grocery shopping--without having to ditch the cart and rush home to check out a critical problem.

Granted, if my staff had more people, I wouldn't have been so restricted, so I had to think of a way to increase my flexibility. Cell phones are a leash, but the Blackberry makes that leash considerably longer.

Meh (2, Interesting)

djasbestos (1035410) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697560)

I have one, and I almost never get called ever since I stopped pushing software updates on Friday.

Then again, you make me do work stuff at home, I'm gonna do more home stuff at work. Yay internet.

Re:Meh (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698036)

since I stopped pushing software updates on Friday.

That's been our policy for years. No new releases/updates/pushes on Fridays. Period.

But only for the senior executives. (1)

jimcooncat (605197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697564)

"...some senior executives claiming a BlackBerry can contribute to work/life balance by facilitating telecommuting and more flexible schedules."

the answer is.... (1)

yoha (249396) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697600)

yes

Not sure about Blackberries... (1)

Diomedes01 (173241) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697616)

But simply have a corporate-issued laptop with VPN power to connect remotely has been both a blessing and a curse. A blessing, because I can work from home frequently. A curse, because I find myself still doing work-related activities at 9:00 PM without even thinking about it. I'd be lying if I said this hadn't led to some marriage-related stress; it is tough to make and stick to work/life boundaries when work is constantly available.

Re:Not sure about Blackberries... (5, Interesting)

hobo sapiens (893427) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697708)

It may be trite to say it, but...

If you were to die tomorrow, this would affect your family for the rest of their lives. You are irreplaceable. Your company would fill your position within days and except for your immediate co-workers, nobody would even care.

I'm eagerly awaiting... (1)

pigiron (104729) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697620)

direct brain implants.

Turn it off. (1)

orionop (1139819) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697650)

Remember everybody, nobody owns you. You can turn off your phone when you feel like it. You have free-will, use it at your discretion.

Qui bono (5, Insightful)

hobo sapiens (893427) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697654)

From TFS: "senior executives claiming a BlackBerry can contribute to work/life balance by facilitating telecommuting and more flexible schedules. "

More flexible for whom? Where I work, that seems to be a one way flexibility. Senior executives are making (SWAG alert) 3x - 10x what I am making. They have made the choice to have a large stake in how the company performs. While I have a stake, of course, it's just not as large or worth my personal/family life. It seems like despite being more accessible, people's work hours never get shorter. And that's what it's about in the end, isn't it? Getting more done in less time? But in rality, it just seems that it's about getting more done in more time. No good. I am glad I have no blackberry.

depends on your responsibilities (2, Insightful)

mihalis (28146) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697672)

To me the blackberry is a blessing, because it helps me find out about things sooner. If I didn't find out about some things on the blackberry, then I'd only find out about them when I next get to the office, except more time would have elapsed and the urgency would be higher. So for me a little bit of intrusiveness (urgent email when I'm on my way home) is more than offset by reducing the stress of getting to work and finding shit happened last night and I wasn't aware).

However I do establish limits on the intrusiveness of the blackberry. Mine never buzzes for email and is switched off entirely from about mid-evening to around breakfast the next day. During that off period people can contact me on my cellphone if they really need me.

If there isn't that time critical element to a persons responsibilities then I can imagine it being not worth it.

My approach to communication... (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697676)

My take on all this is, I like to be well connected but hard to reach.

Blackberries I don't find appealing, because they have too many triggers to allow people to get to you right then - from email to paging to phone. It's really the email that's the worst, Blackberry users seem to stop whatever they are doing right that second to read and answer an email.

People need to be willing to let the mail queue at least a little bit... it would be nice to have a device have some kind of setting to only allow a notice once in a given time period (say every half hour).

It's about being on call for emergencies. (1)

Egdiroh (1086111) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697682)

So the real place this comes into play is if you are on call for emergencies. If you are and you just have a phone then some one has to consciously escalate something to you as en emergency to pull you away from your life. If emergency and regular work email all get to you through the same channel then you have to keep checking the email box and evaluate all the incoming email, and you have to decide whether or not to treat something like an emergency, and since the consequences for being wrong can be severe you are likely to respond to a bunch of things that can wait til the next business day.

So if you already have an irrevocable work/life boundary you are safe, but if there are some degrees of work that may always interfere with your life a device like a blackberry can make work more invasive.

I'm available when available, (3, Insightful)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697684)

I'm not when I'm not.

Seriously people, if you don't want to be bothered at home, make it clear. My company had no problem with that. Turn off the company phone/blackberry/whatever or at least stand your ground. Granted I don't work in IT so I don't know what common policies are like=, but I am on call, during certain hours. If they call outside of those hours, they will get a polite no (they have never tried).

IF callID == 'BOSS' HIT silent (1)

rodrigoandrade (713371) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697694)

To me, it's not much different than a cell phone.

1. Phone rings
2. See caller ID.
3. IF callID == 'BOSS' HIT silent
4. ???
5. More leisure/beer time... profit!

Executive toys perhaps? (2, Interesting)

TechnoBunny (991156) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697704)

Do the executives wnat them for the reasons stated, or do they want them as a status symbol when they're on the golf course?

Re:Executive toys perhaps? (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698194)

Do the executives wnat them for the reasons stated, or do they want them as a status symbol when they're on the golf course?

That's half of it. The other half does appear to be the ability to keep their tentacles around their employees, keeping them available at all times.

Govt employee here... overtime consideration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21697720)

I'm an IT employee for a "state & local" govt organization in the US.
When we first started granting remote access for people to work at home, our legal dept determined that whenever someone accesses even just simply reading their office email from outside, beyond the scope of the normal work day, then it can be deemed to be working overtime. Due to this reason only salaried "exempt" employees could be granted remote access with the explicit instructions that remote access was to only be used for critical work and emergencies and they have to keep a detailed journal of when they use remote access and why and what work was done. It's made remote access almost more hassle than it's worth. Now that we have Blackberries, there's the added constraint that every employee issued one must keep a log of all personal, non-govt-business phone calls they make from the device, which will be compared against the master wireless bill each month, and the employee has to pay reimbursement for those calls.

It is (or should be) very simple (1)

Tall One (1112717) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697842)

Work is that place you go to 5x9. Anything else isn't work, and work shouldn't have an expectation that you're available during that time. If work needs additional coverage, they need to hire additional staff. Period. Leads to: more jobs, more free time (and yes, less take-home pay for the type-As. If they want more, they can work 2 jobs). If work can't afford to hire additional, they have no business trying to operate beyond 5x9.

Re:It is (or should be) very simple (1)

wild_quinine (998562) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698138)

Work is that place you go to 5x9. Anything else isn't work, and work shouldn't have an expectation that you're available during that time.
My contract stipulates that I will be available 'hours as required'. So that's not a universal truth.

It only shatters the boundary if you let it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21697872)

I work from home with my job. I have a blackberry, PC Access cards, and am on the team that pushes issues with our product to the engineering team. I'd like to think that I'm well-connected, however, living in Ohio, which isn't known for it's technological feats, I have an easy time in setting my work hours and not blurring the line between home and work -- I turn the VPN off. Unless I'm on Call, when I leave for the night, my Blackberry sits in my top desk drawer. I still do things online, and I still have time to sysadmin my own servers and do my own thing, and not blur the line -- even though it's a subset of my current job, I still need to do sysadmin type stuff to keep my skill-sets sharp. I spent time with the wife, and if I'm really bored after she falls asleep, I might sneak back into my office for a few hours to get a jump start on the next day's work.

On the other hand, when I first started, I was constantly working, updating tickets at 3AM, trying to keep the upper hand with engineering. I do give a damn about my customers, but, it's not worth the added stress to myself and the family to be constantly working. I'm also not getting paid to work two shifts, so, why should I work them?

a symptom of work-obsessed culture (1)

magical_mystery_meat (1042950) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697874)

It's quite simple. When people started expecting their work to also be fun, or a vehicle for personal fulfillment, they stopped minding when they were asked to work outside of office hours.

To some of us, a job is something that we do for a paycheck. That means that we don't want to live "the lifestyle" and that we don't want our personal time to be intruded upon. You have to value something in your life higher than your work in order to understand this.

This issue has come up for me several times (1)

Tragedy4u (690579) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697878)

What some people don't get is that when your shift or day or whatever is done....YOU have the power to shut a Blackberry OFF. That off button can mitigate your work/life balance.

Camel's nose problem (1)

boyfaceddog (788041) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697880)

I wonder how many of the carckberry addicts got that way from gradually increasing service expectations, not managerial interdicts?
The problem in my group isn't so much that my boss wants everyone to be accessible 24/7, its that my co-workers try to out-do each other in the customer service area. Coincidentally, the people who keep the most lusers happy usually get the best raises because they have the lowest number of complaints. I guess that some people would rather have a juicy raise than a good night's sleep.

how about compensation (1)

imp3 (1203238) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697884)

I'd be fine with this if my company paid me for any "on call" time. Any expectation for me to be availabe during my off-the-clock time should be compensated, regardless of utilisation of that time.

Telling work when you're available... (4, Insightful)

bskin (35954) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697902)

To everyone saying they've told work when they'll be available on their Blackberry...

It must be nice to be able to set the terms on which you'll work for the company. You must have a lot of leverage there. A lot of us are not so lucky.

Not for me (1)

blhack (921171) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697906)

My workstation at work is so far and beyond anything that i have at home that replicating what i can do at my desk at home is impossible. I do mainly graphic design work, so a really big workspace is pretty important. Sure, my little tiny laptop can run gimp and scribus just fine, but it is just really really ineffective for getting any actual work done. Usually if I want/need to get work done (I really enjoy my job), I will just drive into work. Security is here 24/7...and sometimes the best work gets done in the middle of the night and on the weekends (at least for me).

So yes, I have the ABILITY to remotely log into work, but aside from the occasional session on our As/400 machine, or SSH session on one of our linux servers (which is usually just me goofing around with perl anyhow, or messing with openvpn) i don't really do ANY work from home...

my $0.02....oh, and a shameless showing-off of my workspace! Bragging [imageshack.us] ;-) /i just realized i use a LOT of open soure software for work (apache, vsftpd, linux, scribus, gimp, mysql, openvpn, ...(i'm sure theres more) THANKS COMMUNITY!

Re:Not for me (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698034)

Three monitors is what is considered bragging on slashdot these days?

Re:Not for me (1)

debest (471937) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698214)

Nice IBM Model-M keyboard, there. (First thing I noticed!)

Re:Not for me (1)

blhack (921171) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698298)

Thanks :)

Note of extreme-nerdery: it has the same birthday as i do!

I can't stand Blackberries (1)

packergundo (1203240) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697954)

I think they have done more to break down the work/home distinction than any other modern tether. The problem with them is that if you have one you are usually expected to respond to all email that comes in, regardless of the actual urgency of the email. If a device like a Blackberry can be used to get away from the office equal to the amount of time that the office intrudes on personal life, I'm all for it. But more often then not you are expected to put in your 40+ hours at the office and then be on instant on-call once you leave the office. They are not used for balance, but rather for intrusion. I have a cell modem that I use to dial-up when I'm on the train, and so I use it to leave the office early and come in late about once a week. In other words, my company understands that the balance extends both ways. They get to intrude on my home life, so my home life gets to intrude on work. I work late when when work issues come up, so when home issues arise I come to work late. I use the devices to create the balance, not to let work intrude.

OFF (1)

JBMcB (73720) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697962)

As far as I know, all the communications devices I own have an off switch. I use them frequently.

From a VPN point of view (2, Insightful)

NaleagDeco (972071) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697964)

I don't have a Blackberry but I was finally given access to our corporate VPN ... which is the greatest thing ever as far as I'm concerned. It means I can leave the office, relax in different surroundings (the house or the coffee-shop) and hack away in a change of scenery. Better yet, if something strikes me at ten p.m. I can log in instead of trying to hold onto an idea until the morning. I find, however, that when I leave work I'm very conscious of having spent my eight hours sitting in front of a screen ... I'm aware that this is my downtime (i.e. more expendable but more treasured) and I try to enforce that. As such, I've never found myself lost in work at home.

Boundary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21697972)

I went to work at Comcast, and they made it mandatory that I buy a cell phone. Not only that, they told me which carrier I had to go to. I accidentally mixed up Sprint and Nextel, knowing of their merger and thinking they were the same company. For that mistake, I was at first reprimanded. I fixed the mistake after 4hours at the mall. Then the wave of calls from my boss hit. I mean this dude called me every 5 minutes. Sometimes less. It got to the point where I got home and he would keep calling. I was using my own vehicle, and didn't want to drive and use the phone at the same time, and if I stopped everytime he called, I would not have made it to a single stop. Within a week, I was in the hospital with panic attacks. I still get them, but I don't have the job to pay for medical care. All I have is /. and my neighbors wireless signal that he lets me use. A constant state of worry started when Comcast broke the boundary of home/work. And even at work, it was a nightmare. I still have collection agents after me from the hospital, and from the two cell phone companies. Needless to say, the kids aren't having a Christmas because of Comcast, and their terrible policies.

Bizzare telecommuting tale.. (5, Insightful)

Churla (936633) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697976)

My company has cel phone (not blueberries) on all the people in my group. We're the top end of problem solvers in the support side of the organization. They also encouraged us to work from home one day a week to help make up for the occasional weekend day or late night we were pulling.

This ended when a director level person walked through our area one day and didn't see enough butts in seats for their liking. Now they wonder why they have so much trouble getting people to answer the cel phones and work those long/extra hours from home.

Shatter it? Of course it does, and to my benefit! (1)

Mr.Fork (633378) | more than 6 years ago | (#21697988)

There are a couple of reasons why its very beneficial to me having a smartphone (let's call it what they are). I also have my office phone forwarded to my cell which means my clients can reach me ALL day. No voice mail, no missed calls. Happy interactions and accidents all day. Here's why:

1. If I come in late, I've already been responding to my emails and early morning calls on the bus 30 minutes prior. Tick tock - I'm getting paid for my time regardless where I am. +1 karma bonus

2. If a client calls me (internal or external) they can actually talk to me. And I can check my calendar for future availability and schedule meetings while on the phone.(i.e. portable office)+2 Karma bonus.

3. If I'm walking between meetings, I check my calendar for recently sent appointments or meeting notices - it keeps me plugged in and on time - not a bad thing becuase it improves my work performance and perception that I'm punctiual and a good employee.+1 Karma bonus

4. If I'm leaving work, and someone calls, they hear and ask - "are you out of the office" "yes, I'm heading home but that's ok - how can I help you?" It means that my clients think I'm committed to the services I provide. +3 Karma bonus.

5. Finally, if I forget a document, or an email with key details, it's always at my beck and call by simply looking it up on my device. It also means I have answers to questions that can come out of left field - making me seem prepared for all challenges. +1 Karma bonus.

Besides, the text messaging to my staff during a meeting is a huge tactical bonus - "What is this issue about blah blah" texted staff-"It was because of this" - making me appear connected to my happenings. Of course, I may get texted msged "THE EMAIL IS DOWN. RUN!" It also gives me ample time to hide. :)

Re:Shatter it? Of course it does, and to my benefi (1)

nysus (162232) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698262)

The difference is you have clients. You are your own boss. But if you are a wage slave where the rewards for your good performance are much more indirect (if there are any), it's a huge intrusion into your life. Most people would rather stop thinking about work when they clock out and I don't blame them one bit. Try to put yourself in their shoes.

My 2 cents. (2, Interesting)

Drakin020 (980931) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698002)

Here is the issue I had. I am a Network Admin for a company of about 60 users and 25 servers. When I first started my Boss was the director of IT. He had his Blackberry and for the most part did all the work not directly related to servers and Cisco equipment. He always warned me that if I step to far out to help or take care of an issue, that I could never step back. 1 year later I still work for this company and I am now the director of IT. I have hired a new guy as a programmer and IT mook to setup new users and what not. I now have a Blackberry and I see what my old boss meant. Now that I respond to emails, it's like your EXPECTED to be "Johnny on the spot." If you don't then you get a negative look on your shoulders. Yeah you can balance work with home, but when your users start taking advantage of you it begins to consume your life. It becomes more routine to have to check your email every hour, and respond to specific issues. Yeah I could simply turn my phone off, but again... you will have CEO's CFO's COO's who expect that work to be taken care of or at least responded to that night. When you start to cut back people begin to ask questions "Does this guy still care for the company?" To this day I somewhat regret getting my phone and reaching out. Yeah being the Admin here I do need to be "Johnny on the spot" but only for more critical issues, like the Exchange Server went down.

Differing Viewpoints (3, Insightful)

ChromaticDragon (1034458) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698052)

Did anyone notice the stark contrast between the view of the Executives and the workabees?

The Executives believe that the Blackberries can facilitate telecommuting and a balance between life and work. The grunts fear this is just a way to ensure longer workdays.

Why do you think that might be?

Could it be that relative to the workers, the execs don't really have that much work to balance with their life?

I think there is at least one other very important aspect here relative to telecommuting. Telecommuting really only works when there are a few key ingredients:

  • Trust. The manager needs to trust the worker.
  • A way to measure work. I find the managers the most comfortable with telecommuting, flex-time, etc., were those in situations where counting widgets was easy. If there is no clear way to measure output, this becomes a bit more of a challenge.
  • Good management, including proper escalation. My current management has clearly expressed that they expect routine escalation since we're understaffed. We're all comfortable about it since it then becomes the manager's job to prioritize. A bad manager simply attempts to appease everyone and twist the arms of employees to get them to do everything despite burnout.
If you are in a situation where the environment isn't already very comfortable with flex-time, telecommuting, etc., picking up a device which may lead others to expect immediate responses to email at all hours of the day may be a rather horrible idea.

As someone who isn't in an on-call type profession (1)

Neoprofin (871029) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698066)

There are times I honestly wish work would call me when I'm off duty to ask about things. At least once a week something happens where people aren't sure of what to do in a given situation so they just make something up and I'm left to clean up the mess the next day. Would it be worth the five minutes of personal time to save that hour of work time? Usually. The only downside I see is that if I didn't spend most of my days putting out fires I end up not having a whole lot to do.

I am reading this on my blackberry... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21698110)

....sitting in the bathroom.

I'd say it helps to multi-task.

How having a blackberry has affected me. (1)

venturaville (141653) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698112)

I am in IT and I have to carry a phone for on-call purposes. I have seen the transition to blackberries happen at my own work. On the sum of things, I believe that the blackberry has been somewhat more beneficial for me as compared to those with whom I work. Unlike a lot of them, I turn off all email notifications. Instead I rely on SMS alerts for emergencies, and only read email when I feel like it. This keeps me from feeling stressed about having to answer every single email right when it comes in. There are other things you can do to control the email flow (filters, important/normal flags, etc.). The blackberry has helped me as I am able to be somewhat useful even when I am on the bus traveling into work. Blackberries (as well as an increasing number of other phones) can do a lot of what a wireless radio enabled laptop can do. Instant messaging, web browsing (including corporate networks), bluetooth headphones, as well as SSH, VPN, telnet in a pinch.

Would prefer blackberries still (1)

dindi (78034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698266)

They are messengers. Messengers are not as intrusive as a phone call. A phone call has to be answered (optimally) while an instant message can be answered with a delay.

But then again, my feng shui is broken anyway, my office is my living room, and I have 6 computers on all the time - well since I am a treehugger they hybernate/powersave themselves as much as possible.

I still prefer IM as I can simply ignore them, and my asterisk server goes into "we are closed this time" mode for business calls after 7pm, and does not allow anyone in after 9pm (unless you enter an emergency code, which is only known by close family)

Dangerous to Health (1)

SilentChris (452960) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698290)

I'm a systems administrator. I have had a Blackberry for several years but only recently started checking it constantly.

In my opinion, it has been dangerous to my health. Previously, when a server would have an issue (major or minor) I wouldn't really address it until users started complaining. Sometimes I'd get an email notification, sometimes I wouldn't -- regardless, repair wouldn't begin until 9 AM the next day.

Some people may view that as bad administration (and it is, to a degree), but there was a clear delineation between when work ended and "brain reset" time began. Now, I'm constant checking my Blackberry, always monitoring servers, etc. Great work ethic, right?

Problem is: I can't sleep at nights. I wake up at 4 AM to check backups. I check that the work other admins have done has been done correctly.

Work never "ends". I'm always getting the emails about new work that needs to be done. Recently I went to the doctor because I had tremendous stomach pain. Turned out to be something I ate and stress. I've lost weight (unintentionally).

People may say (and they're right to a degree) that it is my own psychosis that's the issue. Clearly I haven't delineated in my own mind what is "important" work and what isn't -- what needs to be checked constantly and what doesn't.

However, to say the Blackberry isn't contributing to this is crazy. Years ago, nobody would communicate with me from work after I went home. Now I'm constantly being communicated with -- there's no way to shut it off (without fear of a server blowing up somewhere).

It's funny -- a few months ago there was a similar Slashdot story that mentioned Blackberries and I was on the side that they were helpful. Clearly, though, this one attached to my hip has caused great problems with my health. It's enough that I'm thinking of getting out of systems administration altogether.

Believe it or not, constant-on has worked for me. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21698364)

I'm a sysadmin by trade, and I work for a large time-zone-spanning company that solely uses servers that have almost complete lights-out admin capability (and a 24/7 staff of trained monkeys on site when that fails. Though in this case I may have insulted trained monkeys...)

If I have a network connection and my cellphone, I can get my job done from anywhere. I have, in the past, put in my 8-12 hours from various places-- Mom's house, varied poker junkets, travelling to help out a friend, whatever.

Note I didn't say "on vacation"-- everyone needs their down time. But if I want to spend a few evenings in Atlantic City, I can bring the laptop, do my job by day, be a degenerate gambler in the evenings...

Of course, I'm also in something of an ideal situation-- I'm actually getting to use the tools that can "facilitate work-life balance" for exactly that. My boss is cool with it, but I'm sure if the wackjobs who run the company knew what was happening, they'd put the kibosh on it in a hurry; to them, "work-life balance" is what happens when your work is your life so they're by definition balanced...

I like on-line access (2, Insightful)

R3d Jack (1107235) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698366)

It means that I don't have to be in the office to take care of matters, which means more at-home time for me. As far as constantly checking my e-mail, I generally don't. Even if I do, that doesn't mean I have to respond. I also like knowing what to expect before I arrive at work. Bottom line, I'd rather be able to satisfy an overly demanding boss from home, rather than spending my evenings and Saturdays in the cube.

Public Employment and Blackberries (1)

Ohio Calvinist (895750) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698370)

The nice thing about being a public employee (or any classified shop with a decent union), is that even if you carry a blackberry, the second your fingers touch a keyboard from home, and its work related, you get instant overtime. If they say "no overtime" you can easily say "no work" and there isn't a foot for them to stand on. (see above caveat). The real luxury is that some shops (like mine) give you on-call pay of $3.40/hr if you're carrying a BB even if you don't get called, which turns into about $400 extra a paycheck. Getting a message here or there from the boss asking you to do something first thing in the morning, or server alerts is kind of nice, and better than a call from home for me.

All that being said, it would be a cold day in hell before I'd carry one of these things if it was "just expected" that if my boss gets some crazy idea at 11:30 at night that I'm on the hook to do whatever he wants by 8AM the next day all the time, and I didn't have a union that would ensure that I got OT it, and cover me when I say "No" if he gets it in his head that he's entitled to my services, for free, after hours.

Just how many channels do we need? (2, Interesting)

ChromaticDragon (1034458) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698414)

I find it rather hilarious how many mechanisms we have for communication these days.

But what is very interesting is the inconsistency of it all.

I use the following means to communicate to my peers at work:

  1. Internet Messaging
  2. Work Telephone Number
  3. Mobile Telephone Number
  4. Email
  5. Home Telephone Number
  6. Pager

Due to cost reduction efforts, many workers no longer have work cell phones nor pagers. But some do. Furthermore, many of us permit others to call us on our personal mobile phones but don't publish these numbers in the official directories.

Next, for a variety of reasons different individuals seem to prefer one channel over another. I often go very long periods without even bothering to check voice-mail (which when coupled with extensive telecommuting renders futile attempts to contact me via that channel). Some in my group simply won't use Internet Messaging. Some aren't as responsive to email.

A lot of this has to do with various coping mechanisms or frustrations. Some who do use IM get rather frustrated when half-a-dozen of us in a virtual meeting all conclude we need to involve them. Simultaneously they'll get half-a-dozen IMs asking questions or inviting them to join the meeting. Others of us cascade avenues of contact to minimize extra work. Those that need to know (i.e. management or close peers) do know how to reach us but all others are kept at arm's length so as to be able to prioritize work and avoid getting buried.

When I here the complaints of these workers regarding Blackberries, it seems as if they're rather afraid of the expectation of fast response to email. At the moment they likely have any old excuse for not responding to email promptly. That'll vanish overnight.

Union, Yes! (4, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698440)

Here's how it's done in a union shop. [animationguild.org] This is an Animation Guild contract.

Time worked on the employee's sixth (6th) workday of the workweek shall be paid at one and one-half (1 1/2) times the hourly rate provided herein for such employee's classification. Time worked on the employee's seventh (7th) workday of the workweek shall be paid at two (2) times the hourly rate provided herein for such employee's classification.

Minimum call for the sixth (6th) and seventh (7th) days shall be four (4) hours. In the event the actual time worked by such employee exceeds the four (4) hour minimum, s/he shall be paid for all time actually worked in 1/10th -hour increments.

All time worked in excess of fourteen (14) consecutive hours (including meal periods) from the time of reporting to work shall be Golden Hours and shall be paid at two (2) times the applicable hourly rate provided herein for such employee's classification.

Now that's the way it's supposed to work. There may be crunches when hours are long, but pay goes up, which discourages employers from overdoing it.

Note the "minimum call" provision. Calling someone at home to do work outside of normal hours triggers that, and costs the employer at least 4 hours pay. Again, emergencies are provided for, but they're billable, so employers don't overdo it.

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