HR Strange But True!
April 19, 2007

It's been called the chic new "addiction"--especially since all the indoor smoking bans. And it even makes those addicted appear more productive and conscientious. It's employees' obsession with their BlackBerry® (sometimes referred to as a "Crackberry") wireless e-mail service. So when the "perpetually plugged-in" lost service on Tuesday night (April 18), many freaked out, especially those who check their indispensable companions every 2 minutes. The service disruption meant that e-mail was delayed or intermittent--and not instantaneous!

Although this service has only been available since 1999, some users find it impossible to function without it. A Web survey of IT and telecommunications managers at large companies by ProfitLine, Inc. found that 80 percent reported a disruption in company operations because of the BlackBerry blackout, according to Computerworld.

Luckily, when BlackBerry's e-mail service through Research in Motion, Ltd. (RIM) went out across the Western Hemisphere around the end of the workday on the East Coast, but the companies' tech support lines were flooded with hysterical callers who use the service 24/7. The company apologized for the inconvenience and suggested that users have communication back-up plans, reported Computerworld. This meant sending e-mails or--the horror--actually speaking to someone on a cellphone. Panicked users even turned to online discussion forums for information--and sympathy.

Computerworld reports that there are calls for RIM to make sure there isn't a recurrence. It has to have "disaster recovery plans that cover the critical nature of their service," said Gartner, Inc. analyst Ken Dulaney. "[RIM] should have a more automated fail-over to minimize or eliminate disruptions." And since the number of BlackBerry users has recently doubled, "RIM "probably has grown faster that its ability to manager a problem."

And this breakdown comes just as a survey shows that patience is wearing thin with many executives about the use of handheld communication devices during meetings. The survey, developed by Robert Half Management Resources, found that 86 percent of senior executives polled said it is common for professional they work with to read and respond to e-mail messages during meetings.

When asked about their reaction when professionals read and respond to e-mail during business meetings:

  • 37 percent said it's OK to read and respond to messages during the meeting.
  • 31 perccent said it's never OK--E-mail devices should be turned off or not brought to the meeting at all.
  • 23 percent said it's OK to check messages as long as attendees excuse themselves and step outside the meeting to respond
  • 9 percent said it's perfectly acceptable to read and respond to messages during the meeting, especially at a time when what is being said doesn't pertain to them.

The poll included responses from 150 senior executives with the nation's 1,000 largest companies, including those from human resources, finance, and marketing departments.

Sources: Robert Half Management Resources and Computerworld

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