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Technology and the work/life balance dream


With most of us now averaging a 45 -hour work week with seemingly endless family commitments, it’s no wonder it’s increasingly challenging to find the right balance between work and personal life. The boss of BlackBerry in Australia tells you how technology can help.

The first thing to do is to assess your priorities both work and personal. This will provide you with absolute clarity as to how your time should be spent. Most people will nominate family as their top priority but will appreciate the necessity of work to ‘support’ this. In my case, my family is my highest priority, however my work is also a fundamental part of my existence. This insight empowers me to set my priorities without endless internal debate.

The second thing to do is ensure you have the right tools to help you ‘do it all’. If a busy person was asked to choose between a smartphone with email capability, calendar, diary, MP3 capability, task list, GPS and Wi-Fi capability or a traditional mobile phone with a separate electronic calendar and written diary, separate MP3 player, written to-do list plus the need to race back to the office to check emails as often as possible, what do you think they would choose?

It is pretty clear. The smartphone eliminates the need for a handbag or briefcase full of notebooks, separate diaries and mobile phones. It also saves a huge amount of time as it allows users to respond to emails and have access to key data whilst on the run, preventing them from working overtime or having to rush back to the office after meetings to clear emails.

So, how does a smartphone have a positive impact on a person’s day-to-day life and increase the time they spend with their family? In summary, it allows you to use those spare moments you have throughout the work day productively and efficiently, which then frees up your personal time in the evening and on the weekends.

Let me share how I manage my work and family life using my BlackBerry.
Here is an average day in the life of Adele Beachley:

5:00am Wake up, run along the beach listening to my running playlist on my BlackBerry then have a quick dip to cool off. Exhilarating, and I’m pumped and ready for the day.

5:30am Sit down on the sand and spend 15-to-20 minutes checking emails on my BlackBerry. The nature of my role means my job transcends the traditional 9-to-5 role and crosses different time zones so it’s awesome to be able to make the most of small ‘windows of opportunity’ to check and respond to emails and keep things moving. I usually take three-to-four minutes here to check my FaceBook page also! (Clear 40 emails).

6:30am Family breakfast. As I have already checked in for the day, I can now take some time to have breakfast with my husband and son. This time is very important to me. I am quite relaxed as I know I am already fully up to speed on what is happening for the day.

8:00am Travel to work – I usually travel to work on the jet cat. I now have 45 minutes to review documents, check some more emails, and read any company updates that may have come in overnight on my BlackBerry. I can also check my calendar to review the meetings booked for the day. There are heaps of other people doing the same on their BlackBerry during the journey. (Clear 30 emails).

8:45am By the time I arrive in the office, I am ready to start a day of back-to-back meetings. I have read all the updates from Toronto overnight and am feeling on top of things.

9:00am
Meetings – most of the morning! I keep my phone on silent, however I have placed special alerts for certain people (my husband and my boss!) so I am able to respond immediately and prioritise.

11:45am Asia is waking up. Finally get to sit at my desk. However, I don’t have endless emails to attend to as I have been able to squeeze most of it in during the spare moments throughout my morning when I have been waiting on another action to begin. (Clear 30 emails).

12:30am Lunch at new restaurant with old friend at Walsh Bay! Can’t find the address so whip out my BlackBerry, open Google Maps and get directions.

12:45am Arrive to lunch in time! Get the waiter to take a snap of my friend and I using the camera in my BlackBerry smartphone

2:30pm I have a big meeting with an important partner this afternoon so I keep my phone on silent and also turn off the LED flash on my device so no-one is distracted. The partner is running late so I use the time to clear emails, keep work moving or call my husband to say hi and find out how his day is going. BlackBerry users are able to open attachments such as PDFs, Microsoft Word documents and Excel spreadsheets on their devices, so they can read the text of a file from virtually anywhere they’re working. When deadlines are tight, no one has to be tied to a desk anymore. The ability to send and receive attachments means work stays on track, even when work has to be done outside of business hours.

4:00pm At my desk again, everything is all good!

6:00pm Jump in a taxi to go to an event. A quick five minutes to check emails. (Clear 20 emails).

6:30pm
A partner calls so I step out to take the call. Having my BlackBerry with me means I am always able to problem-solve when a partner calls me with something urgent after hours. A couple of emails or a quick phone call usually resolves most issues.

7:30pm
Step outside to check in with my family and have a goodnight telephone call with my son. My husband also sends me a photo of my son when he is putting him to bed. As my husband and I both travel a lot, we will always make sure the travelling partner receives a goodnight photo and a good morning photo.

9:30pm Taxi ride home. Exhausted. Check a few emails then decide to wind down and listen to some music on my BlackBerry. I love music and my BlackBerry allows me to sync my iTunes. Check in on MySpace, have a quick chat to my brother on GoogleTalk and another friend on Instant Messenger. IM is a great way to communicate with other people, without having to clean out your inbox, for quick exchanges of information. (Clear five emails).

11:00pm Set alarm on my BlackBerry. Lights out! BlackBerry on silent and is sleeping too.

Time management experts believe there are certain practices smartphone users should adopt to fully realise the benefits of the device. Dermot Crowley, director of Sydney-based training consultancy Adapt Training Solutions, has worked with CEOs and executives from companies including Macquarie Bank, CBA and Pfizer to be more productive through better use of business technology. Dermot believes there are three ingredients that need to be in place for any handheld device, to become an effective productivity tool:

1.Organisational attitude
When handheld devices are issued to employees, it is essential the organisation also establishes reasonable expectations around how and when the device is used. Being issued with a company smartphone should not mean you are available 24/7 to deal with work issues. Companies that develop and promote a protocol focused on the effective use of handheld devices and email are likely to see a more positive acceptance of the devices, and a happier and more productive team.

2. Individual attitude
It is essential that all managers and staff using handheld devices develop clear personal boundaries around how the smartphone is to be used. Clear parameters increase productivity and responsiveness without decreasing work/life balance.

3. Effective practices
The third ingredient in making the handheld a truly productive tool is the individual’s ability to use the device effectively. Often workers are issued the device with little or no training, which limits their ability to increase their productivity. It is imperative that users are shown effective strategies for managing their email and time (meetings and tasks) to fully benefit from the functionality of the device.


So, you’ve got your smartphone, you’ve downloaded your music, synched your calendar with your Outlook and set up Instant Messenger and Google Maps. So, what are rules for using these devices? Here are my tips for good smartphone etiquette:

1. Ensure your mobile phone is off or on silent mode during meetings.
2. Do not answer calls during meetings.
3. Do not send text messages during meetings.
4. Do not leave your mobile device on the table in vibrate mode.
5. If you are expecting an important call during a meeting, let the participants know at the beginning of the meeting. When you receive the call, discreetly excuse yourself from the room.
6. If you need to reference your smartphone occasionally throughout the meeting, for calendar or email records, place it face down on the table to show others that they have your full attention the rest of the time.
7. Ask yourself: “Do I really need my mobile device for the time period of this meeting or can I leave it behind?”
8. Don’t check emails on either smartphones or laptops during meetings. If necessary, turn on ‘Out of Office’ to alert those emailing you that you will be in a meeting and are unable to respond immediately.
9. Remember to take your phone with you if you leave your desk, or turn the phone off or onto silent mode.
10. Avoid talking loudly or typing emails within unavoidably close view by strangers. This can make the person sitting next to you on the bus feel uncomfortable for potentially invading your privacy.
11. Ask your employer or HR department to provide a policy on the appropriate use of mobile devices in your workplace.

So, next time you are using your smartphone to check your emails whilst taking your kids to the park or at the football with your mates, hold your head up high. This is work/life balance at it’s best!

-Adele Beachley is Senior Regional Director – Asia Pacific, Research in Motion (www.blackberry.com).

7 behaviours of effective BlackBerry users
Adapt Training Solutions promotes the following behaviours to assist users to increase their productivity, and maximise their BlackBerry in a way that has a positive impact on both their work objectives and personal life:

1.    Think about what you want to achieve with the device. Think about the possible gains, and the possible traps.
2.    Manage email, don’t let it manage you!
3.    Turn the device to silent mode (or off) when you need to focus (meetings, priorities, home).
4.    Use your BlackBerry in conjunction with your desktop system to make every moment count during the day, so you can switch off at night.
5.    Agree expectations with your peers/team/organisation about how contactable you need to be, and reasonable response times for email.
6.    Take the time to learn what the BlackBerry can do, and take advantage of its functionality.
7.    Set your BlackBerry up to synchronise fully with your desktop to avoid duplication i.e. delete on BlackBerry will delete on desktop as well.

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Adele Beachley

Adele Beachley

Please see below for full list of articles written by Adele Beachley.

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