“Cellphones are the cigarettes of this decade”, says Rebecca Hastings, information center director for the Society for Human Resource Management. News.com has taken a look at the phenomenon of workplace cellphone usage. News.com reports that a University of Michigan study says six of ten adults find public cell phone usage “a major irritation”. They even quote Emily Post saying that business cell phone etiquette is “the next area”.
When Emily Post weighs in, you know it’s a real issue.
Not to be outdone, Siemens commissioned a study from the University of Surrey, and even coined a new term — SAD, or Stress, Anger and Distraction — to describe the impact of workplace cellular phone usage on co-workers.
Coincidentally, on July 5th Canada.com ran this related story on how people are turning to cell phones to stay out of directories — cutting the cord, in order to regain some semblance of privacy. After reading this story, I gave Kathleen Pierz of the Pierz Group (widely quoted in the story) a call. According to Ms. Pierz, the problem of unwanted callers is so acute that more than 50% of residential customers in some US cities now have unlisted numbers. Nationwide, 40% of residential numbers are unlisted. In fact, in her whitepaper on privacy, Ms. Pierz quotes some amazing statistics. For instance, just 11% of cell phone users would consent to have their numbers listed without any privacy provisions. That means 89% of cell phone users would opt-out of the industry’s wireless 411 proposal.
Answer me this: how will communications networks function without directories?
The problem is that access to me (or you), is exploding. You may have a home phone, a personal mobile, multiple email addresses, personal IM, a pager, a website, a personal SMS number, an office phone, an office mobile phone, a corporate email address, a work IM address, a pager, a blog, a personal website inside the company, a blackberry, etc etc etc. Solutions like presence, unified communications, find me / follow me, and personal assistant applications are just barely scratching the surface of the issue.
Some of these so called “solutions” simply exacerbate the problem. Presence, for instance, has been touted by the industry as being the next great communications tool, but the whole model is broken. “I think I’ll let everyone know that I am at my desk so they can call me now.” Why not just hang a sign outside your office door that says “Bug me, please”? Is it any surprise that people are turning off IM in droves in order to get work done? Presence, as it’s implemented today, is not the saviour of telecom. It’s the next great invasion of privacy.
My bet — there will be a stampede to privacy enabling solutions in the future. As Kathleen Pierz said, people want control over how they can be reached, by whom, and when.