Last year, as the summer internships were starting and the school year was winding down, a friend of mine started working at a large international firm. Surprisingly, part of his first day was him receiving his corporate mobile phone. This seemed really strange to me because I have only really heard about high level executives having these types of mobile phones. As he explained the nature of his work and the rationale behind it, I began to understand how beneficial it is for companies to integrate mobile phones into the company work tools but began to reflect over how this could change what we refer to as the work/life balance.
Connecting to an Interconnected World
Mobile phones have made everyone’s lives more convenient and easier. You no longer need to rush home to call someone or have a good stash of quarters in your pocket for the pay phone. Aside from simply allowing for calls from places outside the home or office, mobile phones have served to increase social connectivity between people. Within the office, companies have used large corporate mobile phone contracts to save money while also making for a more effective workplace. Employees are able to receive calls, texts, and emails from any place in the world. This also allows for employers to ensure much more secure communication channels because IT department are able to sync corporate mobile phones to the shared network, which allow for a safe transfer of sensitive business information especially through text and email. Larger international companies are also able to save money by having a large plan that covers things like international calls. Employees are able to call other office around the world without having to work about the cost and employers can save a lot of man power by being billed directly rather than having to reimburse a number of people with different plans and mobile phone carriers. The advent of the smart phone has also lead to significant improvements at both the firm and individual level. Employees can receive/send emails at any moment, review important presentation packets, and manage business relationships outside the firm. Employers have the new ability to monitor the work done by its employees while also keeping an internal database of call logs and emails that may prove invaluable in certain legal situations. These advances in how we communicate have made massive shifts in how we do our work but has also changed the role of work in everyday life.
While mobile phones have greatly improved communication and in turn the success of the firm, as the saying goes “too much of a good thing can be bad”. The ability to be accessible at all times and in all places has created significant problems in the work/life balance. Before the mobile phone, employees would only be contacted at home in the case of emergencies but now members along all the pegs of the corporate latter are bombarded with work related emails at all times of the day. This is a new phenomenon because the “work phone” concept has served for justifying why the intrusive communication is justifiable. For example, in a recent article, the Guardian reported that about 70% of people use their mobile phones for work purposes during their leisure time. Since it’s so intrusive in the leisure time of many employees, the simple answer would be to turn the phone off when you arrive home and simply turn it on in the morning. The issues with this type of remedy is that give the modern business landscape where those that go the extra mile are able to climb the corporate ladder faster and with much more ease. The incentivize greater accessibility which makes turning off the phone and respecting a comfortable work/life balance a luxury that ambitious employees can’t afford.
Changing the Landscape
While an issue with these many dimensions is difficult to “solve”, I do believe that there are a few recommendations on how to improve the situation. Every firm should reaffirm a commitment to a good work/life balance for its employers. This would include providing recommendations to employees on how to find a more rewarding work/life balance along with the necessary tools to achieve this goal. Another important change firms can make is to include a work/life balance segment in individual performance assessments in order to put greater emphasis on the importance of a rewarding work/life balance. While some of these recommendations may be difficult for some companies to employee, I believe that any steps toward improving the role of mobile phones in the lives of employees is how to truly friend the benefit in this modern technological innovation.