The memo came in early on a Monday morning from the HR department. HR- The Human Resources Department. A long time ago . . . it was known as Personnel Department. Personnel—the employees—the people who work for a company - are now a resource—albeit human resource –for the company.
The memo addressed the use –actually the lack of use—of cell phones or other personal devices while the employee is working. It was a memo my husband printed out to show me. He was laughing, not only because he uses a flip phone, which means texting and most other forms of communication via a cell phone are useless to his device, but also because he never carries his phone anyway. If I need him at all, I may as well wait till he returns home. He figures if you need to talk to him, you will keep trying. He admitted that he has watched his much younger co-workers all heads into phones all day long. At least while the supervisor is not watching. Who, by the way, is just as guilty as the underlings. This was one rule that any business will discover, will be difficult to enforce.
Why? Because the millennials are a digitally driven generation. Look at any high school student who is studying, text book online, essay composed on laptop or desktop and emailed or uploaded to teacher, earbuds listening to music, TV on and cell phone beeping that a text has arrived. This new generation of workers, er excuse me, resources, expect access to the cell phone and computers at all times, with social media at the ready. . I know this because, I too, suffer from the addiction (when I had my blackberry, my family called it my crack-berry) but also by experience and observation.
My experience starts within the confines of my own family. My children have a group of friends and with parents, we frequent having dinners out together. As the crowd is generally quite large, the restaurant, in order to accommodate us, opts to break us into two groups of tables—parents and children. While the parents are laughing and talking, across from us is a quiet table of youth. Each one is texting and staring at small screens. Not a peep. Quite a change when they were young and we carried large bags of crayons and books, providing diversions to keep them quiet. Now, we long to hear their voices. Instead, they communicate to each other . . . as well as too many outsiders . . . via the phone.
The second was not a personal observation, but a story related to me. One of my single friends resorted to online dating services in order to meet men. She actually has an app on her cell phone specifically for this task. This one potential mate met her at a local restaurant. (When we learned of her potential date at one of our parent-child dinners, we ordered her to make sure the first meeting was in a public place. We also offered an escape emergency call half hour into the date—just in case). The two met at the appointed location, exchanged greetings and sat down to have a meal. The food ordered, my female friend, who was interested in the gentleman, asked a variety of questions in order to determine the possibility of an extended—if not permanent relationship. She was interested in her date, yet he seemed engrossed in his cell phone. With every question she asked trying to elicit a response, came the ping on her cell phone, indication that someone was texting her. While she tried to ignore the ping, and remain interested in her date, she finally apologized and looked at her phone. As it turned out, the incoming texts were from her date, answering her questions –via his cell phone text. She thought it was a joke and said he could talk to her. In his defense, maybe he was just shy. However, the meal ended as did their burgeoning relationship.
Then there are the myriad of snippets of cell phone events. On a trip to NYC and Broadway, the theatre made the obligatory announcement requesting that everyone turn off their cell phones. All of a sudden, it was like every cell phone went off in the theatre. It was great! I do not know how they did it, maybe it was just surround sound, even though I know I had turned off my phone, I had to check! Another friend, who also could lose her job if a cell phone is discovered on her person during work, made the mistake of mentioning a very current event to her boss, who questioned how she knew about it , when he just received word himself. She admitted, she had looked at her phone. Luckily the two laughed about it.
Of course, many times at meetings and conferences, as the speaker is about to provide that morsel of information that will change my world or my workplace, some knuckle head who did not turn off the cell phone, breaks into the speech. Since this phone is normally placed in an out of sight out of mind space such as the far reaches of a brief case per se, the sound of “You Sexy Thing” fills the room. The music draws me away from the speech and I start to wonder who the call might just be from—as I know it must be a personalized song identifier. I know when the call is from my husband when “What Kind of Fool am I,” is heard.
Taking away a cell phone or any hand held device, will require it to be pried from this cold hard dead hand, especially from this next generation of workers. I am sure they will be pocketed and placed on silence, only to be taken out at a break or lunch and greedily answered.
To the business world, I offer this rule to be added to the memo: when it comes time for the break, lunch, dinner, or after work hour at the local pub, all cell phones must be placed in the center of the table. He who grabs his own cell phone first, pays.