March 1, 2006
Work Tools? No, Silly,
They're to Help You Relax
reports this week that American workers believe they work more than they
used to – but get less done. I saw the story on the Internet while I was
technology, or so goes the lament, is distracting us too often. Every
day the average person receives 46 e-mails – many unsolicited! That
reminds me of this one that went around about funny slipups in pastors’
sermons . . . oh, sorry. Got distracted for a second there.
most interesting lament in the story is this one: "It just increases the
expectations that people have for your production," said Ronald Downey,
professor of psychology who specializes in industrial organization at
Kansas State University.
sorry. This is entirely my fault. See, I spent thousands of dollars on
computers, e-mail accounts and cell phones for my employees, and I was
thinking to myself, “Now they will get more done.”
supposed to be the idea? My bad. If I had realized I was supposed to be
making an investment in their greater at-work leisure, I would have also
bought some of those poofy beanbag chairs, a popcorn maker and HBO.
was conducted by Day-Timers Inc., the Pennsylvania-based company that
makes those little appointment books no one uses anymore because they
can just keep their schedules on those distracting computers.
wasn’t life easier when they passed around those goldenrod envelopes
with the little tie thing that wrapped around the little round thing –
and you had to sign your name to the routing log before passing on the
enclosed memo to engineering? That was a lot easier. And when you needed
to get in your car or hire a courier to deliver a simple piece of paper
to a client because the client happened to need it that day – you
weren’t distracted then! That drive was work!
any tool of your trade has the potential to be distracting, even as it
holds out the promise of making your job easier.
If you use
e-mail to distribute information to 100 people in seconds when it used
to take days, good. If you use it to spend two hours discussing the
prospect of a Darko Milicic trade with your buddy in California, not so
Not as many
of us have those inbox/outbox racks sitting on our desks anymore,
because we don’t use as many paper memoranda anymore. But they made cool
toy parking garages when we did. And the memos themselves were excellent
for paper airplanes or paper footballs.
technology has advanced, the nature of the distractions has evolved.
When fax paper – remember, the stuff on the rolls? – became completely
useless, a few of us discovered that it rolled up very nicely into the
best in-office baseballs, and all you needed was a tube-style
shipping container and you were ready for nine innings. Was it
challenging to get the boss to let us play ball in the office? Not if we
let him pitch.
who have been given better tools with which to do their jobs now see
this as a negative, because it means they are actually expected to
produce more, they might consider the alternative of making their
livings sitting on benches in parks. No one will expect them to produce
anything, and I am sure they will not disappoint anyone.
Day-Timer study, and others quoted about it, complains that people are
stressed out. An outplacement consultant, delightfully named John
Challenger, says people are too challenged.
sense that no matter how much I do, it's never enough," he said.
that’s why you have to come back tomorrow, John. There’s always more to
do. You have better tools now than in the past. Whether you use them for
productivity or porn is entirely up to you, but if you don’t think
better tools should be accompanied by higher expectations, then I guess
you might as well just relax, because that’s what productivity tools are
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