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A Manager’s Viewpoint

Employees “de-wired”

Cell phones bring you closer to the person far from you. But takes you away from the one next to you

IS CELL phone a bane or a boon? Maybe, it is just like asking if a scalpel is good or bad. Well, the answer is, it depends. To a surgeon, a scalpel can save life; to a murderer, it can snuff life.  Same qualifying answer applies to the cell phone. It is one of the greatest inventions that revolutionized the world. It is getting cheaper that almost everybody can have one.

Imagine the delight of watching your favorite sports even when you are outside your home, listening to your favorite music, or taking pictures or video of a special occasion through your mobile phones, or gossip with your family and friends anytime, anywhere. The gadget is a marvel in technology. Anxious parents can check if their children are out of harm’s way. Jealous spouses can check anytime if their partners in life are not cheating on them.

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The downside of cell phones are also many. Texting while driving has been one of the major causes of motor vehicle accidents all over the world. The art of conversation among friends and members of families has almost disappeared as everyone is glued over his/her cell phone. This is the pet peeve of my wife. That’s why we made a rule that during family lunch or dinner at home or outside, use of cell phone is taboo except for an emergency or to record the event.

Cell phones can also kill. Recently, there was a report in media that several mobile-carrying people in Bangladesh died as they were struck by lightning. Worse, terrorists in the world use cell phones to detonate bombs from a distance. And how much productivity a company suffers as employees multi-task while on their jobs such as texting or chit chatting with their friends or loved ones? The amount could be beyond pecuniary estimation!

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Thus, goes my next question. What if we completely ’de-wire’ our employees while at work? No smart phones, no emails, no text – just plain work in one’s computers. I read of an IT company that planned to phase out all emails among employees by the end of the year. They planned to rely instead on personal communication. Yes, it’s nice to read endearing words through text or email but wouldn’t it be warmer if it’s done face-to-face? Add the ’beso-beso’ among ladies and ’abrazo’ among men to boot?  The effect could be electric.

Few years ago, Daimler, the German automaker, made a rule that incoming emails are automatically deleted during vacations so that they don’t return with a flooded inbox. Of course, an automatic message tells the sender which person is temporarily dealing with employee’s email. Switching off phones during vacations and after office hours would be a wonderful way of promoting a balanced and quality work life.

A study conducted in 2012 in the US by Pew Research Center found that 44% of cell phone owners sleep with their phones next to their bed and that 67% experienced “phantom rings,” checking with their phones even when it is not ringing or vibrating. The proportion of cell phone owners who said “they couldn’t live” without phones has gone up to 37% from 29% in 2006.

Reports have it that those who experience phantom rings, sleep poorly, do not feel refreshed in the morning and considered themselves addicted. One of the executives of Blackberry adopted a ’Blackberry blackout’ for his staff of 20. He and his staff agreed to turn off all their Blackberrys from 6 p.m. to 6 a. m. on weekdays and completely on weekends for all work-related use, with rare exceptions. This executive, named Chapman claimed, “When I’m well rested, I show up to work ready to go, hit it hard, and then stop and become a human being.”

Of course, there are slave drivers in the corporate world who do not agree in ’de-wiring’ their employees. I knew of one top executive in the banking industry who even called and summoned his direct reports to the office even while playing golf on Sundays. A kill-joy executive like him who values an employee who answers his calls at 1:00 in the morning must be nuts. I think being always on the phone even during rest days undermines one’s peace of mind not to mention one’s productivity.

So, why don’t we try de-wiring our employees and even members of our family while at home? It gives our frayed nerves a rest. My wife, Pat, among others, would  extremely be happy.

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TAGS: advantages, cellphone, disadvantages, Employees, mobile phone, productivity, Research, technology
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