Posts Tagged email

“Concussions” from office work?

In line with a previous post, the way we communicate in the workplace is evolving, and we’re now having to face a horde of new potential interruptions in our day as email, voicemail, instant messaging and rushed coworkers all clamor for our attention.  Despite the common perception that the younger workers of today thrive in the chaotic world of multiple inputs and constant interruption, it turns out the opposite might be true.

A study by The Institute for Innovation & Information Productivity and Oxford University may end up changing the way we look at work processes and their impact on productivity. The research, highlighted here, claims that younger workers are far more susceptible to performance degradation when constantly interrupted while performing challenging cognitive tasks than previously thought, and older workers are potentially better suited to work under the rapid-fire conditions prevalent in the modern workplace.

The researchers say that younger workers (18-21) who are subjected to constant interruption exhibit symptoms similar to suffering a ”kick in the head” and that older workers (35-39) fare much better under similar circumstances.

Have a look at this research and keep it in mind the next time your child tells you she can do her homework perfectly well with the television and computer on while chatting on the mobile and texting all at the same time.

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Green Networking – Make a Difference

Being green in the age of IT seems to focus on two poles of the equation:

1. Using tech to avoid travel to reduce fuel usage.   Susan Harkins talked about that a couple of days ago, and

2. Improving efficiencies in the endpoints and data center, as in this CIO magazine article, to reduce energy consumption.

However, nobody ever seems to talk about the elephant in the parlor – the high energy costs of networking itself.  Although the folks at Cisco seem to be on the right track.

Last year at TED 2008 in Monterey, TED librarian Jay Walker pointed out an interesting fact. (At about 6:10 in THIS video.)  Moving bits around the Net takes energy, and lots of it. On average, sending 1MB of data uses energy equivalent to that in a lump of coal; sending 200MB of data – not even a decent-sized movie – over the Internet uses as much energy as burning an entire bag of charcoal.

So how can you help with Green IT? Use bandwidth wisely. There’s no need to get silly about it, but a few simple rules will help reduce your footprint.

  • Send shorter emails. Besides using less energy to transmit, research indicates that shorter emails that get to the point quickly generate faster and more effective results. Email also uses a lot less bandwidth than voice or video, and is often more convenient.
  • Use shared files to collaborate. There’s nothing more wasteful than sending large attachments to a distribution list. If your team is working on a document, spreadsheet or presentation, use a shared file to store the data and let the team access it as needed.
  • Choose the appropriate communication technology. High definition video conferencing is getting a lot of attention lately for its ability to make people feel better about not traveling, but is it really the most effective way to get your point across given its relatively high energy costs? And how many hours a week do you spend on useless conference calls?

Be smart.  Communicate wisely.  Determine the method of communication that’s most effective at getting the job done and use it appropriately.  And don’t just cut back on travel, feel good about saying no to an occasional wasteful, gratuitous, bandwidth-hogging e-meeting.

Roger Farnsworth

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Technology’s Impact on the World of Business Communications

If there’s one thing that I’m acutely aware of, it’s the blurring of lines between work and home.  It used to be that the work week was well defined in both scope and culture. We had a very precise protocol for communicating in the office, using memos, telexes, and carefully structured and painstakingly dictated letters that started with “To whom it may concern” and ended with “Sincerely yours.”

Gone are the days of formal communications.  These days you’re very likely to e-mail a colleague from home at 10 p.m. on a weekend or end up in a spirited instant messaging discussion with someone while you’re on a conference call from your home office.  The world of work has stealthily crept deeply into the fabric of our lives.

Along with the ambiguity that comes from blurring the lines between work and home comes an additional challenge.  The communication tools that we use today (voice mail, e-mail, and instant messaging) have limitations that continually force us to try to adapt our behavior to the medium we use.  For example, the other day I fell victim to a misunderstanding that arose from the impersonal nature of instant messaging.  Anger flared and feelings were hurt simply because my messaging partner did not understand the emotional context of a series of messages.

We have a whole dictionary of emoticons that are supposed to salve the wounds wrought by the enigmatic electronic word, but aren’t we now in a technological position to eliminate the cause of the pain?

Sincerely yours,

Roger W. Farnsworth

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