There was an interesting story on 60 Minutes last Sunday that I’ve been meaning to write about, called Working 24/7. The report was about how people in the U.S. now work more than ever before and that technology such as email, IM, VOIP, cell phones, Crackberries, wireless Internet etc. enable us to really work anywhere, anytime. The report gave the example of BestBuy who now has a program under which employees can work anywhere and anytime as long as the work gets done. A few examples (some I think were chosen on purpose because they seem a little extreme):
Shenkman is such a workaholic that he has wired his house with Internet, telephone and television in every single room. As CEO of the global high-tech firm Exigen in San Francisco, he feels he has to be available to his customers at all hours. … He’s so obsessed, he has wired his shower. When Greg soaps up, he doesn’t daydream — he watches the business news, checks his e-mail, and answers the phone (and he did during the show. They had it set up this way, so they could show how the water turns off when answering a call, and that all the tech was waterproof as well.
It turns out Joe and Christina e-mail and instant-message each other, even if they are at home (this one cracked me up, although it is pretty sad as these people are husband and wife and in the same location).
Of course there are lots of negative side effects to working in this way (shouldn’t be too hard to figure this out):
- More time working means less time with family
- More instances of multitasking and continuous partial attention (with associated consequences for relationships)
- Sleep disorders (not mentioned but shouldn’t be too surprising)
- Addiction too work (some people mentioned they’ve canceled vacations, or are having a hard time relaxing)
- Addiction to communication technology (they’re called Crackberries for a reason!)
- Exploitation of workers (more hours, same pay)
- Working more, BUT being less productive (on average)!!
And, according to the segment, some positive effects too:
- More flexibility in when and where to work (the BestBuy example)
- As a result, some workers’ health has improved
- Sharing jobs means more time at home (technology has led to improved communication), when cutting back on hours
But what got me most about the entire report was this:
Christina says she does tune out everything once she gets home from work, to play with their 8-month old daughter Amina. She even turns her cell phones off.
But when Amina gets fussy, they both reach for her favorite toy: the BlackBerry.
“I can have her on the bed with a bunch of toys,” Christina says. But her daughter will always pick the BlackBerry.
So the question is, what are we teaching our children here? There is a fine line between enough and too much technology…..