What mobile workaholics really want

A survey from BlackBerry has much to tell IT departments about the ways users view their productivity needs

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BlackBerry productivity

Productivity is important to many business smartphone users, but in a recent global survey, BlackBerry found many people use mobile technology to make time for personal projects, family life and community involvement.

Those results suggest attitudes about wireless connectivity are shifting. In the past, users were concerned that smartphones would distract them from work and personal activities. But two-thirds of BlackBerry’s respondents said smartphones give them the flexibility to work when and where they want, empowering people to direct their productivity for work or personal pursuits.

BlackBerry users want work-life balance

The survey revealed particular productivity characteristics about BlackBerry smartphone users compared to people who carry competing devices: BlackBerry users were:

  • 43 percent more likely to say their productivity motivations relate to a desire to make a mark in work and society
  • 27 percent more likely to use productivity to achieve a better work-life balance
  • 18 percent more likely to say mobile technology simplifies their lives

Those results certainly shine a favourable light on BlackBerry users. But the data also enrich the depth of research about technology and work-life balance. Opinions on this topic have varied since the dawn of the text-friendly flip phone—and the debate continues. Holly Hamann, cofounder of marketing platform company TapInfluence, recently posted that work-life balance is just “a modern-day knockoff of the American Dream, rooted in the minds of ambitious yet overworked professionals who want to ‘have it all.’

“I don’t believe there is such a thing as ‘work-life balance,’” she wrote. “It’s all life.” Hamann recommends restricting your technology use if work overwhelms personal time. Avoid checking email first thing in the morning. Identify your true priorities. That way, you can focus on what really matters. Find a non-work passion that “makes you step away from your computer and smartphone.”

Dr. Linda Duxbury is a professor at the Sprott School of Business in Ottawa, where she specializes in workplace management. Duxbury has researched the links between technology and work-life balance. “For most people, technology destroys balance,” she says.

Segmentation is key

In a study, Duxbury interviewed people about their smartphone use. She categorized the participants. “Segmentors” are people who use smartphones only for specific tasks, such as work. “Integrators” use smartphones for all sorts of things, but they restrict when they use the devices—no smartphones at the dinner table, for instance. “Struggling segmentors” intend to restrict usage, but don’t. Different categories experience smartphones differently, Duxbury learned. By restricting what they use smartphones for, segmentors found that the devices increased efficiency. By restricting when they use the technology, integrators decreased work-family interferences. Struggling segmentors—who accounted for the majority of the study’s participants—felt workplace pressure to use smartphones 24-7 and family pressure to use the devices less often.

The results show “how important internal vigilance, self discipline and self control are to the ability to maintain boundary management strategies,” Duxbury writes. Hamann reaches a similar conclusion. “Technology itself isn’t the true culprit. Rather, it’s our relationship with technology that throws us off-balance.”

In other words, if users want to achieve the apparently Zen-like state that many respondents to BlackBerry’s survey have attained, they should reconsider how you use your BlackBerry—or any other smartphone running over the corporate network — before you label the device a work-life balance buster.

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