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December 08, 2006

In Mobile Denial

I keep hearing about the "mobile workforce," and keep seeing people picking out tomatoes in the grocery store with one hand while changing the dial (or whatever it is) on their iPods with the other. I've also heard "texting" people is big. As you see, I'm not into mobile living. I can't understand why anyone would want to shop the frozen food aisle, walk down the sidewalk, try on clothes, etc. with a constant stream of self-selected music blasting into their ears. So, I'm skeptical it's the next wave of training.

I'm especially skeptical because so much of the workforce is still compromised of baby boomers who, like me (not a boomer; a GenXer), love their laptops, the Internet, and cell phones, but see no need to take it further than that. Mobile delivery of training ensures employees are able to access the instruction no matter how busy their schedule, but just because their hands, ears, and eyes consume it, doesn't mean the brain is necessarily in agreement. When I think of mobile learning, I don't think of convenience and less wasted time; I think less relaxation. If work can reach employees nearly anywhere, anytime, when is it okay to rest and officially sign-off from work?  Office-related mobility puts everyone in the position of a worker or shopkeeper, with an office tucked into a corner of his house, so work never officially ends. There's always that last-minute detail you forgot to add to your database, the report that was almost done, just need another hour or so...

The counter-argument is mobility decreases stress because it allows for greater flexibility--no need to rush to get everything done by five or six because you can always finish it later after the kids get to bed. I applaud that asset of the technology. But, organizations need to tread cautiously from a corporate culture perspective. Most companies like to bill themselves as progressive, offering a hard-working, but comfortable office environment. When you introduce mobility, does it automatically throw off the tone you've set in your office that makes it challenging but enjoyable? 

I was wondering if there was anyway to temper the enthusiastic worker from feeling pressured to deliver for at least twice as many hours a day?  Maybe you could explain it's strictly for their convenience, and to facilitate enhanced flexibility?  But, no, then you might inadvertently encourage slackerism--I can imagine why you wouldn't want to deter the presumption workers must perform 24-hours a day now, thanks to mobility.

Is it okay if I use my as-yet-unpurchased iPod to watch re-runs of dumb sitcoms?

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