Focus: People Management - Coaching session with Stephen Bubb

Q: I've noticed more and more colleagues with Blackberrys. One of my staff suggested we need them. Is it just a fad?

A fad? Come on now - you don't want to sound like a technophobe, do you?

I wouldn't argue I was the most up to date on ICT developments, but even I have a Blackberry, and I've found it incredibly useful.

The reality is that Blackberrys allow you to handle all your emails when you're out of the office. This means that you can monitor your mail when you have downtime sitting on a train or a bus. This stops emails building up at work and makes for very effective use of time.

Addiction

People can become addicted to their technology, however, and can't stop sending emails. As with all things, there is a balance to be achieved.

There is also the question of the expense. It's not simply a question of acquiring the hand-held machine; you also have to install a special server. However, when we did this at Acevo we found the cost was not unreasonable - there are some good deals around.

I would not suggest that you distribute Blackberrys to all staff, but key members of staff will find them a really effective means of communication.

They also cut mobile phone bills.

One of the objections to Blackberrys is that they blur the line that divides work and life. I was once told I was a saddo for using my Blackberry at the weekend.

I'm afraid I disagree. Surely the whole point of work-life balance is ensuring flexibility.

Do we really want to regiment our working lives so that work can take place only between the hours of 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday?

Flexibility

Most good employers now realise that the more flexible they are with working arrangements, the better it is for them and for staff.

If you are able to leave work early on a Friday, but you pick up work and handle it on a Sunday evening, is this a problem? If you want to take the afternoon off and go to an art exhibition or your kid's school, and then answer your emails in the evening, is that a problem?

For many of us in the voluntary sector, work is not just a job - it's a vocation and a pleasure. As with the Blackberry issue, it's a question of balance. And if you do send an email at the weekend, assume you will get a reply on Monday.

So get your Blackberry - and buy a bottle of claret too. Check your emails while you're having a glass and watching one of those ridiculous episodes of Big Brother.

- Stephen Bubb is chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo), Send your questions to stephen.bubb@haynet.com.

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