Work and Life in the Mobile Society/Technology/Email

Email, a relatively new technology, has now pervaded the modern business environment and become an integral factor in revenue creation as companies now rely on it for business communication (Sanchez-Rodriguez, 2008). Companies are increasingly adopting mobile email solutions that utilize Push technology for easy access from portable wireless devices. Research in Motion’s (RIM) Blackberry mobile email device and integrated Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) have become the industry standard (Middleton, 2007).

A Blackberry smartphone.
A Blackberry smartphone.
What is the effect of the Blackberry on mobile email?

Push email is a constantly active service that automatically pushes or redirects new emails from an email server to an email client such as smartphone or wireless data PDA. Traditional email is pull-based; upon logging in or starting-up, as well as at intervals, a traditional email client communicates with an email server and pulls any existing new emails. This is also referred to as polling (Definition of "push email", 2008).

North American business and government communities, as well as those from other nations, have ardently embraced the Blackberry device and elevated it to a cultural phenomenon since its debut in 1999. Indeed, the coining of the term “Crackberry” is an indication of its rising popularity and addictiveness (American Management Association, 2008). The Blackberry’s huge success is due to the superb integration of secure email and mobile phone functionality accompanied with calendar, task management, and web browsing services (Middleton, 2007).

Blackberry, Blessing or Bane?


Today, it is not at all unusual to see people engrossed with their Blackberries in diverse places such as coffee shops, grocery store lines, or during their public commute. Remarkably, some pastors have been known to encourage their parishioners to email or text them at church so that relevant church related questions may be answered in real-time (Pastors preach, 2007). Thus, a Blackberry may be perceived as a double edged sword; Promising unparalleled freedom and the capability to optimize one’s work time while also introducing work intensification and disruption of one’s work/life balance (The Economist, 2005).

There are different societal conclusions about what constitutes proper and improper use of mobile devices. One popular complaint is the relentless use of devices in inappropriate vicinities and situations (Rosen, 2004). This applies also to Blackberry email use during work and during other social scenarios in which a user will opt to stop engaging with the people around them or disrupt the workflow in order to answer an email (Jarvenpaa, Lang, & Tuunainen, 2005).

Blackberry use often intrudes on the users’ personal lives. Many Blackberry enthusiasts often check emails at all hours including during family time and even while on vacation (Middleton & Cukier, Is Mobile Email Functional or Dysfunctional? Two Perspectives on Mobile Email Usage, 2006). The Blackberry’s use outside the work environment has produced a name dubbed by lawyers as “Blackberry Overtime”. American lawyers are now warning companies of potential lawsuits for overtime compensation (Baldas, 2008). In July 2008, an employee in Tampa, Florida, sued Verizon Communications and a subcontractor for breaching the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and refusal to compensate overtime for Blackberry use (Stockfisch, 2008).

While a Blackberry offers many positive elements in an era where access and more importantly, management of information is critical, we see an introduction of habits and practises which were practically unheard of, or deemed boorish, even a decade ago. Do we lay the blame of the crumbling social divisions between work and personal life on a technology or on the discordant values set by many corporations? Finally, is the “always-on, always available” paradigm realistic or conducive to a proper workflow and healthy work/life balance?



Blackberries and mobile email have not only changed how we conduct business, but also how we interact socially. Certain concerns will require further scrutiny so that Blackberry technology and use may continue to evolve and offer improved functionality to business and public use. Once these issues are addressed, there is little doubt that these technologies will run in tandem with business work-flows and social expectations with minimum disruptions, while providing a more harmonious integration of information and mobility.


  • American Management Association. 2008 “Moving Ahead Newsletter: Beware of the Thorns in the Blackberry Patch” American Management.
  • Baldas, T. (2008). Overtime suits may ripen with Blackberries. The National Law Journal.
  • Definition of "push email", Accessed on October 29, 2008.
  • Jarvenpaa, S. L., Lang, K. R., & Tuunainen, V. K. (2005). Friend or Foe? The Ambivalent Relationship between Mobile Technology and its Users . Springer Boston.
  • Journal on-line. Available from
  • Middleton, C. A. (2007). Illusions of Balance and Control in an Always-On Environment: A Case Study of Blackberry Users. Toronto: Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies.
  • Middleton, C. A., & Cukier, W. (2006). Is Mobile Email Functional or Dysfunctional? Two Perspectives on Mobile Email Usage. Toronto: The European Journal of Information Systems.
  • Pastors preach: turn on & tune in … to your Blackberry, June 2007. Accessed on October 29, 2008. Available at [1]
  • Rosen, C. (2004). Our cell phones, ourselves. The New Atlantis Summer , 26-45.
  • Sanchez-Rodriguez, R. T.-H. (2008). Introduction to Information Technologies. John Wiley and Sons Canada Ltd.
  • Stockfisch, J. (2008). Verizon, contractor face suit on OT pay. Tampa Tribune.
  • The Economist, S. (2005). The CrackBerry Backlash. The Economist, vol.375 no. 8432, 78.