Thursday, March 01, 2007

Survey Says: Blackberry Madness

Maura Welch over on Boston Filter posted the other day on an Ars Technica article about a survey that show that Blackberry and Treo owners work more hours and make more money than other Americans. The survey was conducted by an outfit called Digital Life America.

While at first blush, this sounds like it might be interesting, there may be less here than meets the statistical eye.

According to the Ars Technica post that Maura references, Digital Life surveyed 1600 "'nationally representative'" Americans last year, and found

... that those who owned a BlackBerry were, in fact, more likely to work long hours than those who didn't. 19 percent of BlackBerry-owning survey respondents reportedly worked more than 50 hours a week, compared to only 11 percent of the general population. A higher percentage of BlackBerry owners also felt that they didn't have enough personal time in their lives—53 percent, compared to the 40 percent average. Finally, the average household income of BlackBerry owners was nearly 50 percent higher than the national average, at about $94,000, indicating that those who own BlackBerry-like devices may share some more overachieving (or is that overworking?) personality traits.

This all seems pretty darned obvious to me. Those who "need" or "want" or are "given" (and commanded to use) Blackberries are likely to be upper-level professionals to begin with, aren't they? And upper-level professionals a) make more money; b) tend to work more hours. (I remember being informed that the "minimum" professional work week is 50 hours - and this was well before the invention of the Blackberry.)

I wouldn't expect the "average" white-blue-pink collar worker to be sporting a Blackberry. How many fast-food, assembly line, or clerical workers need to be connected to their work 24/7? 

The survey would have been more interesting if it had indicated how the Blackberry users stacked up against others in the "above average" salary and hours-worked bands. Of people making more than $94K, what's the proportion of Blackberriers? What percentage of those working more than 50 hours a week used a Blackberry?

As the info stands now, it really only raises the question whether Blackberry users are successful because they use Blackberries, or Blackberry users use Blackberries because they're successful.

The survey also reported that on the question of whether being "always on", perpetually tethered to our work, is a good thing or not:

The results were split exactly three ways: a third agreed, a third remained neutral, and a third disagreed. Among just those who own a BlackBerry-like device, the results were also almost equally divided, with 34 percent agreeing and 37 percent disagreeing.

 I'm a neutral-leaning-toward-bad-thing when it comes to being constantly at the beck and call of work. Cell phones seem to provide ample means for "important" communications. Blackberries or other compact devices for those who travel, need to check e-mail, and don't want to lug a laptop. But I'm guessing that about three-quarters of those with Blackberries don't really "need" them for anything really important.

(Maybe it's just that I'm in marketing where we don't tend to have all that many major emergencies where we have to be on alert all the time. How often does a positioning crisis happen at 2 a.m. on a Saturday?)

Unfortunately, all the technology available raises everyone's expectation that everyone else in the world must be always available to provide them with instant gratification for whatever their question or urge of the moment is. In some companies, in order to get ahead, one needs to be willing - even eager - to declare continuous,non-stop fealty to the notion that even the most minor business matter is worth dropping everything in your personal life for.

Let's face it, most business issues can wait until the morning.


Mary Schmidt said...

Or even Monday...

And then there are those meetings where I sit patiently waiting for the others to tip-tap-tip-tap to get to their calendars ("No, that's not it. Oops, that's next week, Uh, wait a minute, I've got to check this.") with my pencil poised over the right page and day in my paper calendar. Of course, different tools work for different people. But, I've seen way too many people with technology that complicates their lives and when it breaks - ah-yah! No calendar, no phone numbers, no nothing.

Maureen Rogers said...

I remember when all kinds of guys I worked with (and it was mostly guys) started carrying pagers. It didn't seem to me that they were involved in work that was so all-fired important,but there they were, pagers on their belts (pretending, I'm guessing, that they were gunslingers).

As you say, Mary, different tools work for different folks. But if you're alwasy available/always on then people will take advantage of it, expect instantaneous access, and things that can really wait all of a suddent are ultra-important. Bah!