Do You Have A BlackBerry? Can I Interest You In A Raise?

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Have you ever read something in the newspaper that, literally, made you burst out in laughter? You know, the kind of laughter that could best be described as the verbal equivalent of, "really? this is what you’re thinking?"

In the Montreal Gazette today, I almost passed over a small news item in the Business section titled, Call Is Out For BlackBerry Pay. Here’s the gist: Canadian bureaucrats’ are using their BlackBerry devices beyond office hours so often that their union is asking for extra wages. Makes perfect sense, right? If you’re connected 24/7, you should be paid accordingly.

Here’s a quote from this article:

"We have old clauses in our collective agreement that cover standby pay, but these clauses have to be updated because these devices have changed the definition of work and being called after-hours. If you have a BlackBerry, you are essentially available 24 hours, seven days per week. If you want that degree of availability, you have to pay people for it." – Ed Cashman, regional Vice-President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

I have two simple solutions that won’t cost us taxpayers any money in additional wages or changing the collective agreement:

1. After 5 pm (or whenever the work day ends), they can turn the BlackBerry off.

2. Force all Canadian bureaucrats to give back their BlackBerry devices. Should anyone need to contact them off hours, they can call them at home (like in the good ole’ days).

I get asked similar questions often: "how do you read all this stuff?", "when do you sleep?", "how do you answer emails so fast?"

The answer is simple (and it will work for the Government too): I manage my technology – I don’t let my technology manage me (feel free to re-read that statement). My BlackBerry is a great example. I have it set to silent vibrate for the phone part only. How do I know when new email arrives? I don’t. I look when I choose to. Just like if I don’t feel like answering a call, I hit "ignore," or I’ll let it go to my voice mail. I know my priorities. I know what I need to accomplish in the day. What if it’s an emergency? I think we all know the answer to that: everyone can be found (to some degree).

Why stop at BlackBerries? What about mobile phones, pagers, giving out your home number, mail, etc…?

I think the Government needs to understand something bigger: we’re in a different world. This is a world about being connected by choice. Can you imagine trying to get a job in the modern workplace, and telling a potential employer that you prefer to not be contacted outside of regular office hours, and that includes emails and phone calls? What kind of work environment does that look like?

Man, BlackBerry could not pay for this type of cool Marketing and PR.


  1. Turn off my BLACKBERRY!?!?!?! Are you crazy man … all those government workers could miss a hilarious joke or something!!! ha-ha great post Mitch!

  2. As a civil servant, I can offer another perspective on this.
    I’m not in a unionized position so I’ll stay away from any comment on that side of things. However, I would point out that in my experience, government workers who are given blackberries are *expected* to be available all the time. If that is the case generally, it certainly has HR implications. It also renders suggestion #1 unworkable.
    As far as your second suggestion goes, do you think that’s realistic at this point?
    Perhaps it is a culture change issue; if it’s known throughout the organization that people don’t have to be slaves to their blackberries then the problem would lessen. I’m not sure I can see that happening though. A better idea might be limiting the devices to people who really do need to be reachable.
    Hope that perspective is useful 🙂

  3. I don’t think it’s the BlackBerry. I think it’s the people managing it.
    So, you take away BlackBerry devices. What about mobile phones? You take those away… people can be reached in their home.
    I don’t like it when technology is blamed for poor HR. Don’t like having a BlackBerry and being acessible? Choose jobs that don’t require you to have one.
    My guess is this has nothing to do with technolgy and the BlackBerry, specifically.

  4. I agree with Dave — limit the devices to the people who are expected to be available.
    Most Blackberry users I know are expected to be available during “off” hours. When someone takes a job, that is an expectation that is (should!) be brought up before taking the job. If it’s not a desired responsibility, then pay should be negotiated THEN, or don’t take the job.
    If they’re truly not expected to be available after hours, but are “bothered” by the virtual leash of a Blackberry…they should be educated on how to use it properly.

  5. I read that BB story the other day too. Sounded to me like PSAC hadn’t really thought this one through.
    It seemed to me like PSAC was basically saying, “our members can’t handle the technology…. waaah!”
    I’ve had a BB for a number of years now, and I’m perfectly happy to ignore the work related stuff after hours, though I won’t hesitate to check in on my Twitter stream :+)
    Am I the only silly servant who’s like this? I don’t think so.

  6. Haha!! As a freelance designer, I’m available 24/7, maybe I should increase my rates stating that as the main reason 😛

  7. I have to agree with Mitch on this one here gals and guys, I have a blackberry that I purchased for myself, not for work purposes, just because I like being connected. While I am at work I do something most of you wouldn’t dream of, I turn it to silent. The only function that is left on to alert me of something is the actual phone part, that way if it is something I really need to be alerted to, a problem with the family or a matter that needs to be taken care of ASAP I can still be reached. Otherwise while I am on company time I should not be bothered with all of my personal stuff, controversy, on my time I should not be bothered with work issues that are not 100% time sensitive. Maybe it is just me, but nothing at work is more important than my time I have with my family at night. and weekends.

  8. It works both ways, doesn’t it? People who recoil at the notion of being accessible after hours should probably not be surprised if the scrutiny level on their productivity *during* office hours goes away up.
    You hear a lot of alarmist talk about the expectation that people be “on call”. In my experience this is not the case. I don’t expect my employees to be “on call,” but I do want people to be focused on objectives rather than acting like clock-watchers. Lucky you if you work in a job where you feel justified freaking out over an “after-hours” email. In the business world we have skype calls and text chats with people in remote locations, because time zones demand it. It that unpaid work, or opportunity?
    Like Mitch says, you need the freedom to switch off – to use technology rather than letting it control you.
    Contemplating extra pay for microminutes worth of work, without factoring in the big picture, is just narrow thinking.

  9. I think the true success of Social Media has just been proven by the variety of perspectives presented above. In two minutes I went from one perspective to truly taking in a number of others and feeling richer for it. My favourite comment though was first presented by Mitch in that we are all ultimately in control of how much technology controls our lives. This is a tougher question than I thought. In one breath I’m completely amazed by the ability to get my email anywhere, but in the next, it does beg the question as to when are our lives are our own. Great discussion, thanks.

  10. I think employees want a fair shake for being expected to be on call. To deny that would be to lose ones job. Unlike the digital elite (who are seemingly connected 24/7), average people don’t want to kill the precious work/life balance that sustains a vibrant middle class existence. At this rate, the only thing I see is an emerging class of burnt employees. I run my own business but I’m already one of those types. At least I have the choice when to be on or off unlike most.

  11. hold on while I turn off that darned Twitter bird…okay, folks who don’t want to always be on: I don’t recommend a move to Japan, where mobile phone culture has raised expectations that one is pretty much always on…or irredeemably odd, dare I say even anti-social…
    I’m a solopreneur now, and trying to learn how to balance it all – there are definitely times when I have to turn everything off and concentrate.
    In fact, ‘scuse me, gotta go…:-)

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