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Beware of the BlackBerry

London, Aug. 23: BlackBerrys can be as addictive as hard drugs, so it’s best not to take them on holiday with you, a US study suggests.

We are not talking here of the succulent fruit of the English hedgerow, but of the wireless hand-held electronic gadget that allows you to send and receive emails anywhere in the world, from the depths of Disneyland to the beaches of Tahiti.

In a study soon to be published in American academic journals, Gayle Porter, professor of management at Rutgers University business school in Camden, New Jersey, foresees the day when workers will be able to sue their employers for insisting that they stay in touch with the office at all times.

“The fast and relentless pace of technology-enhanced work environments creates a source of stimulation that may become addictive,” professor Porter says. In other words, if you go on holiday with your BlackBerry, laptop and mobile phone, you may lose forever the ability to shut work out of your mind and relax.

Although she does not mention him by name, professor Porter may have had Britain’s Tony Blair in mind, frolicking with his family in Barbados with every conceivable means of communication at hand to help President Bush run the world.

“Information and communication technology (ICT) addiction has been treated by policymakers as a kind of elephant in the room; everyone sees it, but no one wants to acknowledge it directly,” the professor says.

“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. Employers rightfully provide programmes to help workers with chemical or substance addictions; addiction to technology can be equally damaging to the mental health of the worker.”

This equates with other research published yesterday which suggests that half of the BlackBerry users would find it a “matter of concern” if they were parted from their device, and one in ten would be “devastated”.

More than a third said that they would feel more stressed if they had to leave the office without it, and just over two thirds felt that the device improved the way they were perceived by clients, according to the research, which was conducted by T-Mobile.

In all, 90 per cent of BlackBerry users described the gadget as “a business lifesaver”.

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