The widespread use of mobile devices and networks is blurring the line between people’s private and professional lives. While business travellers from the Old Continent have strong reservations, their peers from high growth countries – especially Brazil and China – are embracing this trend more enthusiastically.

Business Travellers See Personal-Professional Blurring as a Source of Flexibility

Smartphones and laptops used to make people fear that their private lives were being invaded by work. Now in fact an intermingling of personal and professional activities – a blurring of the boundary between work and free time – is becoming the norm and there seems to be a sort of tacit moral contract between the company and the employee that staff are entitled to carry out private tasks in the workplace. This trend is particularly strong among professional people who travel a great deal and carry company mobile devices with them.  Fully 85% of those responding to a survey of over two thousand international travellers carried out this summer by international hotel group Pullman in conjunction with global market research specialist Ipsos said that mobile professional devices have improved the way they organise their professional and private lives. Attitudes to ‘private life’ differ from country to country, but actual habits in this respect do not show major differences. Xavier Louyot, Pullman’s SVP for Global Marketing, argues that there is now “a new generation of business travellers.” Dominique Lévy-Saragossi, Managing Director of Ipsos France, points out that these professionals now often negotiate a “package when they are hired which covers mobile devices and use of the working environment.”

Chinese and Brazilians enthusiastic, Americans and Brits pragmatic, the French on the defensive

Chinese and Brazilian business travellers are world champions when it comes to blurring the private-professional boundaries and they are the most ‘connected’, with 79% and 71% respectively of those surveyed having at least one mobile professional device, compared with an average of 60% among those from other countries. In a country with a ‘Confucian’ history, the concept of ‘private life’ is relatively new, but Brazilian business travellers are generally happy to blur the lines because most of them believe that helps their career development.  By contrast, the English-speaking nationalities surveyed see the trend less as a real aid to productivity and more as a necessary evil they must take on board. Meanwhile French respondents expressed a very negative opinion of the use of mobile professional devices, with 59% describing them as a source of stress. They are the least well-equipped with mobile communication devices and seem to have a strong preference for keeping work in the workplace. Nevertheless, while French business people came out as least comfortable with work-life blurring, 76% of them see it as normal to use professional devices for private reasons, chiefly because their work also impinges on their private lives.

New generation of international travellers demand connectivity, design and personalisation

Xavier Louyot believes that a hotel brand must “continually reinvent itself”. He points out for example that people are now talking less and less about places and more about ‘moments’, suggesting that we have “moved from the product to the experience”. In order to allow intermingling of work and play, the Pullman chain has taken steps to provide continuous connectivity via various networks, ensure they are secure, and also increase bandwidth, since the rising number of devices used by the hotel has increased the number of Internet addresses that need to be accessible and given that international travellers increasingly wish to interface with the hotel system.  A new Personal Media Network app designed by network integration specialist Quadriga to provide a “seamless, unified experience" will turn the hotel guest’s smartphone into a remote control for a range of services from ordering room service to tapping into the entertainment system, including an on-demand movie database.  Moreover, multi-purpose areas are being set up at the hotels to enable people to mingle their public and private spheres more easily.  In addition, French designer Matthieu Lehanneur has been commissioned to come up with a Work’nPlay concept to promote new ways of holding meetings and help blur the work-leisure boundaries.  Last but not least, while Generation Y-ers do not object to divulging personal data, they do expect that in return this information should be put to good use for personalising services.  Underlines Dominique Lévy-Saragossi: “the demand for connectivity anytime, anywhere is accelerating the move towards the dissolution of boundaries. People are now constructing their own identity based on a blend of the personal and professional.”

By Pierre-Marie Mateo