Sleeping With Your Smartphone

Book review: Harvard Business School professor Leslie A. Perlow writes a practical guide for achieving work-life balance.


(Photo: Natalie Castellino)

Sleeping With Your Smartphone: How to Break the 24/7 Habit and Change the Way You Work
(Harvard Business Review)
Leslie A. Perlow

‘“The reason I love it is that it gives me so much power,” says one anonymous corporate professional in Sleeping With Your Smartphone, as if talking about Frodo’s ring. “And the reason I hate it is that it has so much power over me.’” In her practical new guide to achieving work-life balance, Harvard Business School professor Leslie A. Perlow observes that smartphone addiction is like a feedback loop. The more available people make themselves to colleagues, the more e-mail they get, and the more they feel pressured to be always “on.” Perlow details concrete steps she and her researchers used to unshackle one sad team of Boston management consultants from their BlackBerrys with a scheme she dubbed “predictable time off.” Each member committed to one scheduled night each week when they were not allowed to take work home, with others covering for them. Staff using the method reported 72% job satisfaction, versus 49% among those who stuck with the status quo. Despite taking 238 pages to make some fairly simple points, her key insight is crucial: because no one wants to be seen as slacking, individual workers cannot switch off on their own. A team or office must change its 24/7 culture together, or not at all.