Wired at Work: Avoiding the 'Leash'

Survey Reveals Pros, Cons of the Virtual Workplace

Wired at Work: Avoiding the 'Leash'

By Tom Musbach, Yahoo! HotJobs

As advances in wireless technology continue to blur professional and personal boundaries in the lives of American adults, a Yahoo! HotJobs survey reveals that many professionals have love-hate relationships with their gadgets.

Three out of four survey respondents said they use the same wireless device -- cellphone, laptop or smartphone -- for work and personal purposes. More than 900 office workers who use wireless devices took the survey, and they expressed both the good and bad sides of being so connected to work.

Balance Is Better

Many respondents said they have a better work-life balance because they use wireless devices. Seventy percent claimed they are more productive as a result, and 65 percent said they have more flexible schedules because they can work remotely. The wireless gadgets also allow 48 percent of respondents to spend more time with family and friends.

Ball and Chain

On the flip side, survey respondents also struggle with being too connected. Twenty-six percent said they felt like they were on a "permanent corporate leash" because of their wireless devices. And 33 percent reported being easily distracted by work-related emails and calls during their personal time.

Work to Live author and coach Joe Robinson sums up the situation this way: "The lines between work and home have become so blurred, the only way you can tell them apart is that one has a bed."

The Beeping, Buzzing Avalanche

The difficulty, Robinson suggests, stems from a lack of rules about using the wireless devices. He recommends that employers and workers agree on rules of engagement to "manage the avalanche of e-messaging."

Debra Dinnocenzo, president of VirtualWorks!, a resource group for virtual workplace issues, agrees. "The work-life balance benefits, as the respondents indicated, are only achieved with the necessary discipline to turn off or ignore the ringing, beeping, vibrating gadgets that keep us connected to work," she says.

Dinnocenzo adds that using wireless technology also has important benefits for employers, such as saving money, retaining talent and contributing to a cleaner environment.

Ways to Say 'No'

"I find that we're confusing 'access' with 'urgency,'" says Dinnocenzo.  She recommends the following tips for maximizing the benefits of living and working in a wired world:

  • Block out time when you will not be interrupted, and turn off your cellphone, BlackBerry or other device. 
  • Use the "delete" option early and often.
  • Arrange for calls from the office only in cases of emergency.
  • Be clear about what you value and what's important to you.
  • Burn off stress by exercising -- without a cellphone or PDA.
  • Screen calls using caller ID.
  • Maintain your commitment to work-free vacations.

"People must realize that ultimately they must take responsibility for limiting access and preventing overload," Dinnocenzo concludes. "It is not necessarily an initiative they can expect from their employers or managers."