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Is the digital leash a blessing or a curse?

Without a doubt, smart phones have dramatically changed the workplace. But has it been for the better?

Perhaps most people would say yes. Not that long ago, stepping out of the office meant going off the grid. The cell phone made it easier to stay in contact, but it wasn’t much help when it came to reviewing documents or accessing websites.

The smart phone was the real game changer, making it possible to carry on a lot of daily work from just about any location with service coverage, including the home. Many people might grumble about the so-called “digital leash,” but most would agree it was a necessary evil.

But is it even necessary? Earlier this year, California Gov. Jerry Brown proposed taking away state-issued mobile phones from most employees, saying they represented an unnecessary cost. Some FCW readers agreed. Although some government positions require constant access, most don’t.

“Just because most people nowadays can't seem to function without a cell phone does not translate into its necessity to do the job,” wrote Olde Sarge.

But other readers see it in simpler terms: They say they aren’t being paid enough to be accessible at every hour of the day, every day of the week.

“So I say, take back the BlackBerrys, take back the cell phones, and if you're not going to pay us fairly for our talent and effort, give us back our lives,” one reader commented.

Even John Berry, the director of the Office of Personnel Management, sees a downside to constant connectivity. In a recent speech, he encouraged managers to spend less time checking their BlackBerrys and more time talking with their employees.

“Hear, hear!” readers replied.

“It is not just a curse of managers," one reader commented. "I've been in several ‘working groups’ with people who start looking at their electronic toys when colleagues are directly addressing them. Why anyone thinks this is not rude is beyond me.”

What do you think? Are mobile devices creating more problems than they are solving? Let us know what you think. We will publish the best of the comments in an upcoming print issue of Federal Computer Week.

Posted on May 04, 2011 at 12:18 PM


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Reader comments

Fri, May 4, 2012 United States

It depends. I work for a health coaching company and work remotely, thousands of miles from my headquarters. Part of my job is to 'stay connected' to my home office as well as to motivate my clients to reach their goals.This takes a heck of a lot of texts, emails, phone calls.Its a lot of work, but TREMENDOUSLY SATISFYING I also have our doctors, physiologists and rest of the team a text or email away whenever I need their advice on a case. No one on my team or even my clients have ever abused having my cell number. I have over 100 clients. I'm very passionate about this work and when I get a text at 6am that says "I just ran 5 miles for the first time and I feel fantastic!!", it really makes my day. I think, in the end, those who have access to employees with digital leashes should use more discretion in using them, so as not to abuse the privilege and sour the work relationship.

Tue, May 10, 2011 RayW

A Curse.

While it does not affect me (wireless devices are a security hazard in my workplace), I was visiting my sister who works for an agency that has to have a lot of flexibility since the bad guys never take time off when you do. Her first line tasking manager (not directly the boss) is a micro manager who insists that trivial tasks that he sends over the phone be immediately responded too, nothing to do with even the lowest levels of threats (sort of like me being asked the status of a 120 day program that is due in 119 days at 9 PM on a Saturday night). She has to check the phone since it could be a real threat that she has to address, which interrupts family activities or even sleep.

Just glad I work in a job where when the 9 hours are over I am gone, and do not have to answer the land line phone if I suspect it is a work call. No stress, no fuss, no muss.......no cell phone (at least that I acknowledge).

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