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(2013-04-15 07:44:58)




分类: 阅读篇


 The horrors of hyper-connectivity and how to restore a degree of freedom


   "The Servant" (1963) is one of those films that it is impossible to forget─a merciless dissection of the relationship between a scheming valet (played by Dirk Bogarde) and his dissolute master (James Fox). The valet exploits his master's weaknesses until he turns the tables: the story ends with a cringing Fox ministering to a lordly Bogarde. The film was an indictment of the class structure of Harold Macmillan's Britain. But it is hard to watch it today without thinking of another fraught relationship─the one between business-folk and their smart-phones.


   Smart devices are sometimes empowering. They put a world of information at our fingertips. They free people to work from home instead of squeezing onto a train with malodorous strangers. That is a huge boon for parents seeking flexible work hours. Smart-phones and tablets can also promote efficiency by allowing people to get things done in spare moments that would otherwise be wasted, such as while queuing for coffee. They can even help slackers create the illusion that they are working around the clock, by programming their e-mail to be sent at 1a.m.

    智能设备有时候很给力。指尖一点,便知天下。它让人们可以在家工作,而不用为了上班和其他充满汗味儿的陌生人挤在狭小的车厢里。 对于想要灵活支配工作时间的父母来说,这是一项诱人的好处。智能手机和平板电脑还能提高效率,人们可以利用诸如排队买咖啡这样本来可以被浪费的闲暇时间完成工作。通过把电子邮件的发送时间设置为凌晨一点这样的做法,智能设备甚至把懒散的员工塑造成甘为工作苦命熬夜加班的工作狂假象。

   But for most people the servant has become the master. Not long ago only doctors were on call all the time. Now everybody is. Bosses think nothing of invading their employees’ free time. Work invades the home far more than domestic chores invade the office. Otherwise-sane people check their smart-phones obsessively, even during pre-dinner drinks, and send e-mails first thing in the morning and last thing at night.


   This is partly because smart-phones are addictive: when Martin Lindstrom, a branding guru, tried to identify the ten sounds that affect people most powerfully, he found that a vibrating phone came third, after the Intel chime and a giggling baby. BlackBerrys and iPhones provide relentless stimuli interspersed with rewards. Whenever you check the glowing rectangle, there is a fair chance you will see a message from a client, a hero-gram from your boss or at least an e-mail from a Nigerian gentleman offering you $1m if you share your bank details with him. Smart-phones are the best excuse yet devised for procrastination. How many people can honestly say that they have never pruned their e-mails to put off tackling more demanding tasks?

    智能手机让人上瘾是一个原因。品牌营销专家马丁·林斯特龙想找出十种对人影响最大的声音。他发现,手机震动声排名第三,仅次于(广告上的)音乐英特尔钟和婴儿咯咯笑的 声音。黑莓和苹果手机凭借着很多优势毫不留情地吸引着我们。无论何时,当你查看亮着的屏幕,很有可能会看到客户的短信,老板的邮件,起码也会看到一位尼日利亚的绅士发的(敲诈)邮件:提供银行信息,你将获得100万美元的奖励。智能手机也是耽误事的最好借口。 有多少人敢说自己从来没有因为更加苛刻的工作任务而删除邮件呢?

   Hyper-connectivity exaggerates some of the most destabilising trends in the modern workplace: the decline of certainty (as organizations abandon bureaucracy in favor of adhocracy), the rise of global supply chains and the general cult of flexibility. Smart-phones make it easier for managers to change their minds at the last moment: for example, to e-mail a minion at 11p.m to tell him he must fly to Pittsburgh tomorrow. The dratted devices also make it easier for managers in one time zone to spoil the evenings of managers in another.

    超度链接加剧了最能破坏现代办公领域的一些趋势:确定性的下滑(随着组织放弃了官僚制转向了灵活的组织机制),全球供应链的兴起以及对灵活性的狂热推崇。智能手机更容易让管理者在最后一刻改变主意。例如,晚上11点发邮件告诉员工必须在明天飞往匹兹堡。 令人讨厌的手机也更容易让处在一个时区的管理者去蹂躏另外一个在其他时区内正在睡觉 的员工。

   Employees find it ever harder to distinguish between “on-time” and “off-time”-and indeed between real work and make-work. Executives are lumbered with two overlapping workdays: a formal one full of meetings and an informal one spent trying to keep up with the torrent of e-mails and messages.

    员工们发现更难区分上班和下班的时间了—实际上是很难区分真正的工作和不必要的工作。 企业高管们也在两个重叠的工作日里晕头转向:一个是一直开会的正式工作日,一个是在忙着检查无数电子邮件和短信的非正式工作日。

  None of this is good for business-people’s marriages or mental health. It may be bad for business, too. When bosses change their minds at the last minute, it is hard to plan for the future. And several studies have shown what ought to be common sense: that people think more deeply if they are not constantly distracted.


   What can be done to keep smart-phones in their place? How can we reap the benefits of connectivity without becoming its slaves? One solution is digital dieting. Just as the abundance of junk food means that people have to be more disciplined about their eating habits, so the abundance of junk information means they have to be more disciplined about their browsing habits. Banning browsing before breakfast can reintroduce a modicum of civilization. Banning texting at weekends or, say, on Thursdays, can really show the iPhone who is boss.


   The problem with this approach is that it works only if you live on a desert island or at the bottom of a lake. In “Sleeping with Your Smart-phone”, a forthcoming book, Leslie Perlow of Harvard Business School argues that for most people the only way to break the 24/7 habit is to act collectively rather than individually. She tells the story of how one of the world’s most hard-working organizations, the Boston Consulting Group, learned to manage hyper-connectivity better. The firm introduced rules about when people were expected to be offline, and encouraged them to work together to make this possible. Many macho consultants mocked the exercise at first-surely only wimps switch off their smart-phones? But eventually it forced people to work more productively while reducing burnout.


  Ms Perlow’s advice should be taken seriously. The problem of hyper-connectivity will only get worse, as smart-phones become smarter and young digital natives take over the workforce. People are handing ever more of their lives over to their phones, just as James Fox handed ever more of his life over to Dirk Bogarde. You can now download personal assistants (such as Apple’s Siri) that tell you what is on your schedule, and virtual personal trainers that urge you take more exercise. Ofcom, Britain’s telecommunications regulator, says that a startling 60% of teenagers who use smart-phones describe themselves as “highly addicted ” to their devices. So do 37% of adults.


  The faster smart-phones become and the more alluring the apps that are devised for them, the stronger the addiction will grow. Spouses can help by tossing the darned devices out of a window or into a bucket of water. But ultimately it is up to companies to outsmart the smart-phones by insisting that everyone turn them off from time to time.



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