Employers who push staff to carry handheld devices at all times could be sued for encouraging addictions among their staff, US academics have warned.
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Rutgers University’s associate professor of management, Gayle Porter, believes continual use of devices such as Blackberrys can be addictive and could mean users lose the ability to forget about work and relax.
"IT 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,” she said.
In a forthcoming study, Porter argues that health and safety law may evolve to take the dangers of over-using technology into account.
“It may be unfeasible to regulate how much people use technology,” she said. “However, it is reasonable to imagine a time when policy makers recognise the powerful influence of employers that sometimes results in harmful excess among the workforce.
“The pressure for using technology to stay connected 24/7 may carry employer responsibility for detrimental outcomes to the employees.
“If people work longer hours for personal enrichment, they assume the risk. 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.”
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