March 23, 2006
 

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Posted: 10.12.04
From the Desk of Teresa von Fuchs: Over Connected
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While working on an upcoming article for Mobile Enterprise, I had the pleasure of interviewing a handful of top-level executives. One question I asked each of them is how technology had improved the way he or she works. I got two kinds of answers: One was, “technology has allowed me to do my job more effectively, thus freeing up time for family and friends,” and the other was, “technology has certainly allowed me to do more work, more efficiently, but I think my family and friends would prefer it if I could put the cell phone down a little more often.” I think this split is a significant one for today’s workforce.  

By Teresa von Fuchs




On the one hand, being able to work from anywhere saves us tons of travel time—forms can be filled out and sent in over the ether, e-mail can be checked almost constantly from any number of handheld devices, systems and databases can be monitored and updated remotely. All of this means fewer hours spent inputting paperwork, managing inbox overflow and staring at your computer screen. Productivity is up; time in the office is down.

On the other hand, there is rarely such a thing now as leaving work at work. Cell phones do double duty as both personal and professional tools; though you’re out to dinner at 8 p.m. in New York, it’s somebody from the L.A. office calling with that quick question. And in today’s global market, chances are good that somebody is up and working and needs to reach you more hours of the day than you care to be reached. And though it might just be a quick confirmation call or a 30-second e-mail response on your BlackBerry, dinner is still being interrupted.

A white paper from VSpan, a conferencing technology company, recently came across my desk; it’s titled, “The Hierarchy of Communications,” and it’s about evaluating different modes of communication and how they correspond to the importance of what’s being communicated. Aside from all the studies about face-to-face communication being the most effective form and the importance of body language (I don’t know if you’ve ever been laid off over conference call, but it’s a really unsettling feeling; compassion and the finer nuances of human emotion don’t come through very clearly) this white paper makes a relevant point about how too much connectivity can actually keep us from effective communication.

We may be so conditioned to the benefits of always being connected that we don’t really think about the non-verbal cues we’re giving by answering the phone during dinner or by checking wireless e-mail while in a meeting. Part of technology’s sell is its inclusion in our everyday existence. Though that inclusion has positive ramifications, when mano-e-mano interaction is interrupted by technology, what’s being said is, “My connection to the outside world is more important than this connection here and now.”

And that’s not good for relationships, business or personal.
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