Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Technology - Friend or Foe?

Sure, I know what you’re thinking; is he crazy?  Look at all the advancements in technology that we have experienced over the last decade, and look at all the great things that have come from those advancements.

Fair enough, but have you also noticed that the technology that is supposed to “make the world smaller” and make us all so much “more connected” is also responsible for creating more distance between people than ever before?

Take a ferry between two cities, jump on a bus, take a look around you the next time you are at the airport or on a plane, or, just look around when you’re walking downtown and notice how many people have their faces buried in their IPhone or Blackberry and how many of them are wearing headphones at the same time, and as a result, how many people are NOT speaking to each other.

The same can be said, to some degree, in the workplace.  That is, that the technology that was supposed to “make our lives easier” and contribute to “work/life balance” is instead increasing peoples’ workload, their stress levels, and their inability to have any work/life balance based on the fact that they are always reachable, and always expected to be reachable.  There is no longer an “off” switch for many people.

One of the additional symptoms of this to me is when you receive an email from someone whose office is next to yours or around the corner about something that does not require a documentation trail.  In short, they could have either picked up the phone or popped around the corner to your office to have had a conversation with you, but who has the time?

As simple as it may seem in the face of this situation, one of the simple solutions that I put in place to increase relationships and connectedness within the workplace in one of the hotels where I worked was to create “email free day” one day a week, every week.

The “rules” were simple and we got everyone on-board with participation.  On email free days you could not send any emails internally, except where there was a sense of urgency around some form of documentation that had to be circulated on that day, such as BEOs or changes to BEOs for banquet events scheduled within that week.

External emails to/from clients, corporate office or other hotels within the company could be responded to, to ensure we continued to comply with our commitment to respond to all correspondence within 24 hours of receipt.

But if you sent an email internally on email free day, you were fined $1.00 and the funds generated from those emails was donated to charity.

At first, there were some people who responded as if we had asked them to work with one hand tied behind their back, but quickly people saw that their job was not in fact made any more difficult, and, as you would expect, there was a whole lot more interaction between people, not to mention that people who habitually had been locking themselves in their offices all day were now seen meeting and talking to people all over the hotel, and they turned out to be some of the biggest fans of email free day.

Give it a try.  You may be pleasantly surprised to see how much more liveliness and fun get produced in your workplace.

We spend a good deal of our lives at work.  Is it too much to ask that we have a little fun while we’re there?   I don’t think so.

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1 comment:

  1. Yes I agree, the technology that was suppose to bring us together is definitely tearing us apart. I just returned from a biz conference in ATL and generation Z has an emotional IQ below a 2nd grader. ANd their loss of empathy and compassion with a focus on "what's in it for me" has ruined their ability to engage. Furthermore, they consider a phone call rude! Truly sad!