What Your Patients are Hearing

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Is that phone call real or robo?

In the few minutes it takes to read this column, some 400,000 Americans will have picked up the phone to hear a robotic voice harping a product or cause. If robocalling were a disease, it would be an epidemic.

Some robocalls are positive, reminding us of appointments and coming events. But about 40% are scams.

“Every time my phone rings it interrupts the work I’m doing,” says Hannah Donahue, a media strategist in Los Angeles. “Even if I don’t answer the phone, it’s disruptive.” She receives about six robocalls a day, starting as early as 7 a.m. and continuing into the evening.

And it might not be as easy as simply not answering a call when your business life depends on your phone. Missing a call can mean lost work.

Robocalling has been around for decades. But the frequency of use has skyrocketed in recent years. In 2018, the estimated number of monthly robocalls in the United States has risen from about 2.5 billion to 4.5 billion, as reported by NBC News.

The increased efforts by robo-scammers might reflect changing consumer behaviors. “The [telecommunications carriers] started to identify the bad guys,” says Alex Quilici, CEO of YouMail, a company that provides voicemail and call-blocking services to iPhone and Android users. “Call-blocking apps started to scale up and get publicity. What we figure is that bad guys started having to call more to get through.”

Technology is another driver. Setting up a robocall enterprise is easy and cheap.

The best advice for now is not to answer calls from unfamiliar phone numbers. “We still get a ton of spam, but Google and everyone has gotten so good at filtering email that you don’t notice,” Mr. Quilici says. For now, robocalling remains a frustration of a plugged-in life.

Work, ethics, and the millennials

A few months ago, several Google employees reportedly quit over the company’s involvement in a military project. Their decision might have come with the knowledge that their skills were transferable and that another job would not prove hard to find.

Still, the decision to resign might be a sign of how different generations approach work, according to a BBC article. For millennials, sometimes called the job-hopping generation, switching jobs for ethical reasons might be more common than it is for Generation Xers or Baby Boomers.

Then again, the article says, these ideas about millennials might not hold true for most young workers.

Part of this may be tied to the economics of the present. Research supports the view that gaps in employment, whether deliberate or not, are neither good for the bank account nor the likelihood of future job satisfaction.

“For all the lip service we pay to ‘making a difference,’ evidence shows the primary driver for selecting a job is still the payslip. The most recent Deloitte survey on millennials underlines that 63% of millennials consider the financial reward a very important factor in weighing up a job offer – the highest ranking one,” writes BBC correspondent José Luis Peñarredonda.

As in generations past, the main reason for choosing a job in 2018 remains the wage. Real-life necessities to support a family can blunt youthful passion to change things in a low-paying way. Still, headway is being made, as some companies realize the value of aligning corporate priorities with employees’ desire to have their work better reflect their ethics.

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