As speculation continues to swhirl around RIM and its Blackberry product range, one of our spies sent in this photo, taken of a West End of London store earlier this week. Is this the rumoured next-generation version of the Blackberry? Sounds to good to be true? Maybe, in fact one of our contacts told us “You gurt to be kidding.”



And now time for another survey, this time about digital distractions and disrespect… According to new research, the overabundance of electronic devices for collaboration, social networking and communication tools designed to make it easy to complete work-related tasks is leading to rudeness at the office and at home. The study of 1140 UK workers in July conducted by social email provider harmon.ie found that:

• During face-to-face meetings, 41% of UK workers remain glued to their communication devices, sending instant messages; responding to texts; listening to voicemails; or checking their emails. This figure rises to a staggering 70% during virtual meetings and webcasts.

• 31% even admit to disrupting face-to-face meetings to answer their mobile phones. Paradoxically, 4 out of 10 of these individuals agree it is rude to do so.

• Age plays a major part in workplace etiquette. One in three workers aged 20-39 will take a mobile phone call while in a meeting, compared to 20% of people aged 40-60 and just 10% of people over the age of 60; and 19% of respondents willingly defy their superiors and stay connected when they’ve been told to explicitly disconnect.
 
“It would appear that we have a classic case of double standards in the workplace, with 82% complaining about other peoples’ tendencies to disrupt proceedings by answering a mobile phone, tweeting, sending an instant message, responding to emails or even just updating their social status – which incidentally 9% of our sample confessed they did,” said David Lavenda, Vice President of Product Strategy at harmon.ie. “Yet, rather ironically, 70% of those that rudely interrupt meetings themselves would be offended if someone did the same thing to them. Clearly, the perceived pressure to stay connected has led many people to neglect their manners.”

The study also found that communication and social tools are encroaching on people’s personal relationships, with survey respondents reporting:  

85% keep connected during weekends.
79% stay tuned in during evenings.
74% keep in touch with the office while on holiday.
48% even stay online while in bed.
35% report they never disconnect from the office.

What’s driving digital addiction?
A third of survey respondents said they fear they will lose their competitive edge if they disconnect from their inbox for 30 minutes or less, and 20% felt in danger of losing the upper hand over their careers when cut off from email for just five minutes. Yet all this connectivity doesn’t generate greater productivity, as a third of employees are interrupted at least every 15 minutes. After each distraction, it can take another 20 minutes to regain focus and return to the task at hand.

The overall impact of digital distraction means that employees have trouble completing work (36%), suffer from information overload (22%) and as a result fail to think creatively (22%).  People also return to work from the weekend or holiday with less energy and inspiration than they otherwise would. These factors make it hard for workers to carry out their allocated responsibilities with the necessary effort and focus.

Lavenda believes workers’ digital addiction has a lot to do with instant gratification. He explained, “There’s a positive feeling associated with being able to check your email and find something new there, and there’s some anxiety that goes along with being out of the loop, feeling left behind. As addictive as that instant gratification can be, moving past it is crucial. The latest item in the inbox may seem to be the most urgent, but is it really?”

What are organisations doing to tackle the issue?
Two thirds of businesses have adopted strategies to reduce digital distractions and boost productivity in the workplace. Specifically:

• 39% have instituted enterprise collaboration and social platforms that speed up access to people and information. These tools are intended to eliminate the need to constantly switch between different contexts and screens, which can be a big time sink and a significant barrier to adoption. Yet, three quarters of workers still consider the canteen, water cooler/coffee machine and smoking room to be the top meeting and networking points. And despite the tools, more than a third (37%) still rely on personal recommendations to identify people to connect with, compared to 21% who rely on the company intranet or professional networking sites (11%).

• 36% have blocked access to certain websites deemed inappropriate or irrelevant to complete work tasks, and 35% have blocked access to Facebook and other social media sites; 5% have blocked this access on Fridays only.

• 25% provide training to better manage information overload.

harmon.ie (pronounced harmony – geddit?) is a provider of social email software that brings document collaboration to every business user by transforming the email client into a collaboration and social workspace. Formerly known as Mainsoft, the company has been building cross-platform enterprise software since 1993. For more information visit http://harmon.ie