I’ve noticed a scary trend in just the last few days (I’m probably way behind everyone else). That is, people are text messaging as they are doing other things. The scary part is when they are driving. I take the 401 highway to work on many days, and I am shocked at how many drivers are driving and typing in messages – or reading messages – as they go. How do I know? Usually I am trying to avoid them as they swerve – or they are slowing down or speeding up without regard to the traffic flow. I remember years ago hearing a story from the States about a man who was stopped by police for irratic driving and they found he had a book propped up in his car – he was reading. He’d even built a little book holder for it. Welcome to text messaging.
Today at the grocery store I noticed that the young man whose job it is to gather the carts was pushing the carts with one hand, and texting on his cellphone with the other. Never mind the danger in moving that snake of carts around while distracted. What about productivity? He was not moving very fast, and it didn’t look like he was on a break. As an OD consultant I know that organizations are going to have to fast figure this out. Health and Safety committees will have more to worry about. Many baby boomer Managers I talk to are already pretty negative about the work ethic they are seeing (or not seeing) on the job. It won’t be enough to ban Facebook and MySpace in the workplace. Even business tools like the Blackberry can be problematic. Studies on interruptions are coming out now, and they show anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes recovery time for people interrupted in a task by an email or phonecall.
I’m sure creative solutions will emerge as people take hold of the problem and start to work with it. The transition to new technology has always been interesting to watch. I’m so glad to be a part of this century.