Discussion Point Is Work Interfering With Our Personal Lives

We've got work to do.

But results of new Ricoh Americas Corp. survey, released just today, confirm what many of us have long suspected: namely, that technology could be sapping our workplace productivity — and enabling workers to do a lot of things other than work.

Terrie Campbell, Vice President, Strategic Marketing at Ricoh Americas Corp., said businesses of all sizes are facing a connectivity conundrum. “We need to be connected to electronic resources for our work, which gives us a tremendous ability to achieve great things. But the flip-side is we’re a click away from alluring distractions like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Hollywood gossip and Angry Birds,” she said.

Blurring Work-Life Boundaries

In our new world of work, there's a very blurry line between our personal and professional lines, the survey found. Specifically, three out of four workers (76 percent) check personal email, three out of five (61 percent) take personal calls, and two out of three (67 percent) text using a mobile phone at least once a week while on the job, according to the survey. Approximately one in three (35 percent) employees post to their social media accounts and even play games (34 percent) on a weekly basis.

The so-called connectivity conundrum is especially acute for younger members of the workforce. Workers between 18 and 34 are nearly twice as likely to post to social media account(s) as those between the ages of 35 and 64 (49 percent versus 28 percent, respectively) and play games (50 percent versus 25 percent) at least weekly.

More than 50 percent of adults who responded to the survey admit playing games and posting to social media accounts hampers their productivity at work. And about 40 percent concede the same about checking personal email, taking personal phone calls and texting on the job.

The findings are based on online survey of more than 1,000 employed adults in the US conducted last month by Harris Poll on behalf of Ricoh.

What's the problem with mixing business with pleasure (or, perhaps even worse, our personal pain)? Some experts think it threatens to undermine the advantages of information mobility, which Ricoh defines as "a state where the precise business information employees need is instantly accessible wherever and
whenever it’s required to conquer the challenge at hand."

Has Driven to Distraction — a phrase Edward M. Hallowell coined to describe the 18 million Americans who are thought to have Attention Deficit Disorder — evolved to include every working adult with a smartphone? And what do we do about it? We thought we'd ask some experts to weigh in.

The Question

Is technology sapping the productivity of your workforce?  

The Answers

Terrie Campbell, Vice President, Strategic Marketing, Ricoh Americas Corp.


Campbell is a veteran of the document and information technology industry with focus on designing solutions that enable customers to have more effective and secure use of critical business information.
In her current role, she is responsible for the strategy, direction and execution for Ricoh's Managed Document Services approach, as well as key vertical marketing strategies and programs, for both direct and dealer channels. Tweet to Terrie Campbell.

It might be. Being permanently connected to our various devices for both work and personal communication has posed what we’re referring to as the Connectivity Conundrum. Although our devices allow immediate access to important work-related information, they can also prove to be extremely distracting as well. Personal matters are taking more precedence at the office than we thought.

Millennials especially contribute to this Connectivity Conundrum: they are twice as likely to post to their social media accounts versus their older colleagues.

But wait. High connectivity has put employees effectively on 24/7 call to answer work demands. If personal lives are succumbing to work demands, isn’t it only fair that work lives include a little room for personal moments? What’s the acceptable balance?

Whatever the answer, the Connectivity Conundrum needs to be met head on and proactively discussed among our peers at work and our families at home. An open line of communication to address this new dynamic can lead to a clearer outline of expectations. Well-crafted guidelines for employees will make it easier for workers to meet these expectations.

We all know technology is not going away; so by acknowledging the inherent distractions it can cause, we can better sustain our productivity at work while addressing our most important personal needs. 

Kenny Van Zant, Head of Business, Asana


Van Zant manages marketing, sales and operations at Asana, a web and mobile application designed to enable teamwork without email. It was founded by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and ex-engineer Justin Rosenstein, who both worked on improving the productivity of employees at Facebook. Before Asana, Van Zant was the senior vice president and chief product strategist for SolarWinds, where he helped pioneer the bottom-up model for selling software and Software-as-a-Service into enterprises and small-and-medium-size businesses. He was also executive vice president of Marketing and general manager of communications for Motive and the co-founder of BroadJump. Tweet to Kenny Van Zant.

One key problem is the balance of team and individual productivity. In addition to individual email overload, entire teams in business are facing even worse disarray in the inbox. It's clear that the inbox is no longer your best dashboard for teamwork -- from staying on the same page about tasks and managing ongoing priorities to completing specific projects and achieving high-level goals and objectives.  

This isn’t to say that email is going away. It will just be used for less. Instead, we’re seeing better technologies and tools built for communication and productivity, especially for teams. At Asana, our objective is to bring teamwork and personal productivity together, so workers can track what matters to any team they're on, as well as see their specific slice of the pie at any moment.

Amy Vernon, Award-Winning Writer, Journalist and Speaker


A 20-year veteran of newspaper journalism, Vernon is sought-after for advice on how to navigate the social web. She is an inaugural inductee of the New Jersey Social Media Hall of Fame and has consulted for a wide variety of clients, ranging from tech startups to international media organizations, on how to harness their community, develop shareable content and put in place best practices in their digital strategy. She’s also a wife and mother and lives in New Jersey. Tweet to Amy Vernon.

Where companies get into trouble is when they try to prevent workers from doing things like check personal email or post a status update to a social site. Employees will start finding excuses to take “breaks” and step away from their desks. Or they’ll have their smartphones hidden under their desks and expend even more time and energy trying to hide their connectivity.

That said, I know that there are times I get too distracted by social media and end up having to work later than I’d expected to catch up. So I employ tools such as the desktop app SelfControl to prevent myself from going on certain sites and keep my mobile phone on the other side of the room.

As an employee, you need to address the potential problem from the get-go. Set aside times you’ll allow yourself to dip into email or call someone. Set personal goals on what work you have to complete before you can check in on Facebook. Use these as rewards.

As a company, if you’re worried about your employees spending too much time connected, talk about it right off the bat. Let them know you’re not going to be big brother and monitor their activity -- as long as they're getting their work done, it’s not a problem. Suggest solutions for the easily distracted.

Dana Blouin, PhD candidate and IoT researcher 


A CMSWire contributing writer, Blouin describes himself as a technologist and nerd. Four years ago, he was working as a network technician at a communications company in Rhode Island. Today he's working on a PhD in Thailand. He is conducting research at the Sirindhorn International Institute of Technology (SIIT) at Thammasat University on low power IPv6 wireless networks — small sensors that can communicate reliably with Internet enabled devices. Tweet to Dana Blouin.

Today our mobile phone — what we once considered a device for simply speaking with someone in a location different from our own —has become a computing device. The shift was unavoidable, as technology advanced and communication become more streamlined, we no longer needed to dial a number and actually speak with someone. Sure some of us still actually speak on the phone, but those numbers are dwindling.

Considering at how easy it has become to communicate with a few swipes of the finger, it’s no surprise that so many in the workforce are engaging in it during working hours. If you stop what you are doing to take a call it feels very intrusive and seems as though all your effort is focused away from your job. But the way we communicate now is in small bits. We type a few characters, do some work and then check for a response and do some more work. It gives the impression that our communication is not really taking too much of our time, though it defiantly can detract from our productivity.

With smart watches now carving out a niche in the personal communication space, our mobile device could be in the desk drawer as long as its within Bluetooth range. A worker could be distracted from his tasks long enough to send or receive a message, send out a tweet or play a quick game — all from a device on his wrist. Surely no one wants to be cut off from communication all day while they work. But that tasks employers to come up with policies that their employees can live (and work) within. And employees have to know their limits, because the tech is just going to get easier to use.