The CrackBerry habit

British employers are being warned they could face multi-million-pound legal actions from BlackBerry-addicted staff on a similar scale as class law-suits taken against tobacco companies.

Research by the University of Northampton has revealed that one-third of BlackBerry users showed signs of addictive behaviour similar to an alcoholic being unable to pass a pub without a drink.

The report found that some BlackBerry users displayed textbook addictive symptoms – denial, withdrawal and antisocial behaviour – and that time with their families was being taken up with BlackBerry-checking, even at the dinner table.

Professor Nada Kakabadse, joint author of the study, said that lawsuits were a growing issue for employers who were being sued for failing in their duty of care to staff and in following health and safety guidelines.

In one case in the US, a female business consultant claimed that her marriage fell apart because she was constantly checking messages. She ended up losing custody of her children and sued her employer for damages.

“Enlightened companies that issue BlackBerrys as standard like pen and paper should also have policies on how to use them, so that people can use technology in a way that doesn’t have an addictive side,” said Professor Kakabadse of Northampton Business School.

The BlackBerry backlash has already begun in the US, where firms are settling out of court to avoid negative publicity.


I’ve had a BlackBerry for well over a year. It is by far the most useful gadget I’ve ever owned. But I don’t recognise any of these symptoms. Could it be that most BlackBerry users haven’t figured out how to filter their mail? In my case, the only mail that reaches my phone comes from:

  • a few selected colleagues in the various organisations where I work
  • my kids
  • a few special friends
  • my editors on the Observer.

    Everything else goes to my computer, as usual. The result: really important email reaches me instantly. Everything else has to wait until I’m at a computer.