Archives for category: Internet

Imagine a work day where your smart phone keeps standard work hours — turns on when you begin working and off it goes as you head home for the evening. Volkswagen did more than just imagine this when its German operation recently adopted a policy that turns on its email servers a half hour before the work day begins and turns it off a half-hour after the day ends (policy applies to all non-managerial blackberry users).

According to an article in Wired magazine online, Volkswagen’s intention is improve worker well-being by promoting a work culture where people should not be expected to work or be reached at all hours of the day. AMEN!

Blackberries, iPhones and their smart phone competitors keep us constantly wired, so the difference between work and play is increasingly blurred.

It has become widely accepted that for a telemarketer to call during dinner-time or at night is intrusive, if not illegal in some places, so why not a similar sentiment toward a client or co-worker that can’t wait until the morning to send a message? The task at hand probably won’t get done any sooner because we are aware of it at 11 P.M. instead of 8 A.M. the next day. The world will also likely not come to an end because we are not available to answer messages at all hours of the night.

I would venture to call the Volkswagen decision revolutionary by US standards, yet in uber efficient Germany, it is possible? The policy indicates a sensitivity to worker quality of life in a digital world that should really be present in some form in every company.

I’m sure much of the counter argument revolves around how this stunts productivity, but does it really? There are endless studies that show how workers waste at least 25-30% of their time at work messing around on the Internet for personal reasons anyway. Why not make the work day more efficient and our off-hours genuinely preserved for leisure?

So at the end of the work day, what’s more important? Reading emails during dinner or spending time with your kids? Answering questions on a Blackberry that can wait until the morning or taking a jog, cooking a proper meal, watching a movie with a friend? It seems like the answer should be pretty obvious for the non-workaholics out there, but then again, not everyone loves to log off!

Logging out now…

A recent interview in Fast Company with MIT Professor Sherry Turkle, author of the book “Alone Together” touches on some excellent points in regards to the role technology plays in our lives. Her book – with a telling title – talks about human relationships with technology in their private, social and professional lives.

Turkle’s interview inspired me to think once again about the whole philosophy of LogMeOut. There is no reason to shun technology for those that may question it’s negative influences on our lives, but rather a serious need to use it in the right places and balance its use with our non-technological selves.

Turkle says “I hate the metaphor of addiction: it implies we have to get it away, give it away, wean off. This is great stuff. It’s not heroin. It’s just something we need to learn to use when most appropriate, powerful, and in our best interest.”

Darn straight Ms. Turkle! It ain’t heroin that is for sure, though they don’t call it a “crackberry” for no reason. I think Turkle has it exactly right: where we falter is in failing to distinguish between good use and bad use of technology.

She says if you need to make a deal somewhere halfway across the globe like Abu Dhabi, there’s no reason that technology should not be used. But Turkle is against what she calls “a kind of technological promiscuity, where that technology, so perfect in [one] circumstance, is the technology you think is perfect for people to bring into a board meeting, when they need to be working on a problem together. In that case it’s not the technology of choice. They’re not physically present with the people they need to bond with and deeply connect with, and need to make very consequential decisions with.”

I sometimes find myself guilty of this very activity. Being so used to e-mailing across the globe, I often choose to e-mail people 40 or even 15 minutes away from me in an instance where the issue at hand would be more quickly resolved by speaking by telephone or meeting in person. E-mail trumps all, eh? Why is it? Because it’s easy? Fast? Free? The effort of face to face engagement is too tiring?

Turkle goes on to say she thinks “there are ways in which we’re constantly communicating and yet not making enough good connections, in a way that’s to our detriment, to the detriment of our families and to our business organizations.” Amen.

People can argue that Facebook and Twitter and all these things bring us closer together, but maybe all it does is connect us together. Being connected and being close are not the same thing.