Hans Hulsbosch has his hands full. Literally.
“I’ve got two smartphones, a laptop, I’ve got an iPod and an iPad ... I’m trying to interface them all but it doesn’t always work,” says the executive creative director of brand and design consultancy Hulsbosch.
Hulsbosch is not alone. Academics at the University of Sydney Business School and the Australian Graduate School of Management have found most executives tend to load up on gadgets, typically lugging two smartphones, a tablet and potentially also a laptop, every day.
In interviews with global banking executives in 2006 and again in 2011 and 2012, a sharp change was revealed. Previously researchers found a desire to carry one device for all communication needs: work and personal.
It hasn’t happened. Even those who say they travel light often tote multiple devices. The chief executive of hospitality equipment finance company Silver Chef, Charles Gregory, describes himself as a “less is more kind of guy”. He travels with his iPhone, iPad and, for some trips, a set of electronic bagpipes.
Kristine Dery, a senior lecturer at the University of Sydney Business School, says a key factor in carting around multiple devices is the security settings on corporate phones.
“While all of the executives we interviewed had been issued with a company smartphone, the security firewalls meant the technology had significantly reduced capabilities,” Dery says. “So to expand both work and non-work functions, such as access to social media, executives were also carrying their personal smartphone.”
But as the lines between home and work blur, thanks to the ever-present BlackBerry with its requests from colleagues or clients, or the expectation with real-time communication that executives are always ready with a response, loading up on the technology helps grab back some personal space.
“Most executives chose to carry their personal devices to enhance mobile connectivity, but in doing so they also discovered an interesting side effect: the technology itself is helping to create those much sought-after boundaries between work and non-work activities,” says Dery.
So perhaps executives will continue to shoulder the burden of multiple gadgets. Even if it can be annoying. “To me it’s time; time becomes a real problem with having too many gadgets ... half the time you don’t know what to pick up, what to use ... it’s too hard,” says Hulsbosch.