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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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