Pi Attitude Zone: Flexibility

Mobile Phone Hell

Smartphones must be wonderful, because everyone has to have one. 

But leaving aside the shiny, short-lived attractions of apps, maps and games, do our smartphones really make us happy?  Are we devoted to them, or enslaved by them?  A UK survey by telecoms regulator Ofcom found that 37% of adults confessed to being “highly addicted” to their mobile phones;  the figure for teenagers was 60%, implying that tomorrow’s workforce will be even more chained to their mobile devices than today’s.

Smartphones may be helpful at a personal level, putting vast amounts of information at our fingertips.  They help us make better use of idle moments, for instance when standing in queues.  But they are also making our professional lives hellish in ways that few people seem to notice. 

First, carrying a cellphone means you are on call at every waking moment.  Bosses no longer think anything of invading their employees’ personal free time on a whim.  They now have the ability to hand down decisions at a moment’s notice, calling their subordinates at 11pm to tell them to fly out to a client meeting on tomorrow’s 7am flight.  These habits can be even more infuriatingly disruptive if the peremptory call comes from someone in a different time zone from yours.

As a result, our phones have been progressively making us nervous to the point of destabilization.  We obsessively check the little screen with aberrational frequency, just in case there’s a new message from a client or a superior.  Distracting ringtones, vibrations and beeps interrupt our train of thought, leaving rag-ends of unfinished business in their wake.  Dividing lines between work time and leisure time get damagingly blurred.  The lack of a dependable allocation of interruption-free leisure hours harms our concentration.

Indeed, it could be argued that mobile telephony, in the name of “Flexibility”, is actually hindering the efficient and effective management of business, by introducing almost limitless uncertainty into corporate behavior patterns.  The Economist magazine has described this trend as the replacement of bureaucracy with “adhocracy”.  Carefully planned work gets pre-empted at a moment’s notice by time-wasting make-work.  When bosses can indulge themselves by changing things on a whim, carefully honed strategies and planning for the future are thrown out of the window.

Pi says: we need to relearn the antidote phrase, “Oh, let it ring”.

Zone: Flexibility Country: Multiple Geographies Product – Communications