Blackberry rollout stalled over work/life balance debate

Workplace opposition to after-hours contact

A federal government department stalled the distribution of a new fleet of BlackBerries following fears the devices would have a negative impact on the work/life balance of staff.

The Blackberries were purchased for the Minister for Environment, Water, Heritage and Arts, Peter Garrett, as well as 40 other executives including senior departmental staff.

However, access to the new devices was delayed after concerns were expressed about the BlackBerries infringing on the work/life balance of staff.

According to a source within the department, who requested anonymity, there are a number of government decision-makers that believe executive staff should rarely be contacted after-hours and if necessary can be contacted by mobile phone.

Staff expressed fears about BlackBerries contributing to a longer working day and felt it was going a step too far because mobile phones are adequate for out-of-office contact.

Not everyone agreed, however, with some senior executives claiming a BlackBerry can contribute to work/life balance by facilitating telecommuting and more flexible schedules.

According to the source debate became so heated there was talk of completely withdrawing the devices. However, a spokesperson for the department confirmed they will not be withdrawn but confirmed the recent purchase of 40 BlackBerries.

"There has been a recent purchase to add to our existing fleet and to update the department's older BlackBerries; this was necessary to allow each handset to have the ability for full e-mail classification," she said.

"They were purchased to ensure compliance with the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) e-mail classification guidelines."

The spokesperson pointed out that mobile phones are adequate for voice but not e-mail communication.

It isn't the first time mobile devices have been at the centre of workplace debate with a survey released earlier this year showing one-third of respondents believe a mobile device can increase workloads. Released by the Solutions Research Group, the survey was undertaken by users of BlackBerries, Palm Treos and other PDAs and smart phones.

The survey supports research from the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) which shows that since 1980 working hours in Australia have continued to increase. Currently, Australia has the second longest working hours in the OECD.

Despite this the federal government is keen to accelerate the teleworking trend by establishing the Australian Telework Advisory Committee (ATAC).

The committee released a report this year examining ways to faciliate a more flexible workplace and to promote the benefits of teleworking.

As part of its work/life balance policy, the Australian Computer Society (ACS) wants the federal government to push teleworking and a more flexible working day built around core hours of 10am to 3pm.

ACS president Philip Argy said the government needs to act to address skills shortages and an ageing workforce.

Red Rock Consulting associate director of support, Dianne Phelan, said flexibility is the most important cultural value of the workplace.

"Management has to be flexible so part-time staff can work earlier or later, or work from home if it is feasible, otherwise business just loses staff," she said.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Darren Pauli

Computerworld
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?