Gadgets can enable us to be more flexible and productive in the way we work. But we need to ensure they don't become the means by which our job takes over our lives

Somewhat to my surprise (and no little embarrassment), I am now the keeper of a Blackberry.

I've spent years campaigning in favour of work-life balance and against the evil of email addiction. And in my book, the Blackberry has been responsible for more electronic junkies than any other device (although in mitigation, at least it is mainly an executive addiction; remote access is now providing a cheap fix to the masses that in the longer term could end up being far more damaging).

It's not that I don't know the risks. A survey of businesspeople released last month by the Crowne Plaza hotel chain found that more than half of all executives took their Blackberries to bed with them in case they got an important call or email. One in three said they felt under pressure to take their laptops and Blackberries on holiday, so they could be contacted wherever they were.

Three-quarters of respondents said they worked at least three hours overtime a day, and five per cent claimed they regularly worked 14-hour days.

New research by the TUC claims that thanks to worsening economic conditions more of us are putting in extra hours to try to safeguard our jobs. According to the TUC, three million workers in Britain are putting in more than 48 hours a week - up by 180,000 in the last quarter. That's hugely significant, because between 2000 and 2007 average working hours were on a downward trend. If working time continues to increase again, pressure could build for more legislation around the EU's working time directive, which is only going to be bad news for UK employers.

At the end of the day, though, a Blackberry is just another business tool; it has as much potential for good or harm as a pencil, a slide rule or a calculator: it all depends on how you use it. Or to put it another way, I think I can handle it.

Like the anti-aviation protestor who's currently getting a load of flak for flying to the US to meet fellow campaigners, I'm going to turn the tools of the enemy against them and use my Blackberry to spread the word about work-life balance.

And just like remote access, which can aid working from home and give positive work-life balance benefits along the way (not to mention making us more productive and using less fossil fuel), the Blackberry can be a positive force for good. It can get you to meetings on time, help you keep up to date with Euro 2008 and free you from the tyranny of being chained to the desk from 9-5 Monday to Friday.

It all depends on how you use it - and whether you allow your colleagues and your boss to turn it into a leash to tug whenever they like. If you feel that happening - just say no.n

Steve Crabb is editorial director, Coaching at Work magazine