Companies that encourage their employees to be constantly connected to their offices may wind up being liable for encouraging an addiction among their staff.
That’s the warning being made by Gayle Porter, an associate professor of management at the Rutgers University School of Business at Camden.
According to Ms. Porter, the fast and relentless pace of technology-enhanced work environments creates a source of stimulation that may become addictive.
“There are costs attached to excessive work due to technology,” says Ms. Porter. “Information and communication technology (ICT) addiction has been treated by policy makers as a kind of elephant in the room — everyone sees it, but no one wants to acknowledge it directly. Owing to vested interests of the employers and the ICT industry, signs of possible addiction — excess use of ICT and related stress illnesses — are often ignored.”
Although the researcher admits she is not aware of any court cases on this subject, she is of the opinion that employers concerned for the health of their workers and their bottom lines may wish to keep an eye on the matter… and encourage employees to walk away from their Blackberries, email, and cell phones while on vacation.
Exactly how the person acquired the ICT addiction would be an important point in any future lawsuit.
“If people work longer hours for personal enrichment, they assume the risk,” Ms. Porter said. “However, if an employer manipulates an individual’s propensity toward workaholism or technology addiction for the employer’s benefit, the legal perspective shifts. When professional advancement (or even survival) seems to depend on 24/7 connectivity, it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish between choice and manipulation.”
More information on this topic is available from Rutgers University’s web site.