Last week's list caused a certain amount of comment to the effect that we shouldn't be encouraging time-wasting in the office. In the interest of balance, we've decided to provide the antidote.
Technology has been superb at saving time for companies. This has had some downsides - word processing software put a generation of secretaries out of a job and the print unions were shocked to find most of their jobs were out of date - but the advantages have outweighed the losses.
This was a tough list to compile. Shaun and I had some serious disagreements but, thankfully, we maintained a professional demeanour and didn't get chucked out of our favourite local Thai restaurant. Kudos to our ever-forgiving bar manager who understands that arguments are par for the course when we work out the lists each week.
Like any list it isn't perfect so, if you have better tips, please use the comment feature at the end of this article to let us know.
Shaun Nichols: I had a tough sell getting Iain to agree with this one. After all, last week we put the online encyclopaedia site on our list of the 10 worst time wasters.
When used in small doses, however, Wikipedia can be a very useful tool. When looking up small bits of information such as dates, ages or definitions, Wikipedia can be a quick way to get information that would otherwise be rather tedious to track down.
That's not to say Wikipedia is an absolute authority. With the wisdom of many comes the squabbles of a few, and sometimes Wikipedia entries can contain information that is less than reliable, and occasionally outright wrong.
Still, if you're not writing a term paper or news article, Wikipedia can be a nice reference for looking up specifics.
Iain Thomson: OK, so I agreed to have Wikipedia as an honourable mention, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.
I'm glad you added that last sentence otherwise I would have had to wield the pointy stick of editorial justice to remind you that Wikipedia is not fact. You have to check each snippet against an unimpeachable source before dedicating it to print.
Wikipedia is a damn good source of information but, like any source, it can't be taken on face value. You have to check and double check, and for that reason I'm still not sure it's a time saver for anything other than pub arguments.
Mention: Remote working
Iain Thomson: Personally I would have liked to see this higher on the list but, as Shaun pointed out, it's not a specific technology but an amalgam of techniques.
But a time saver it certainly is. The average commute time is around 45 minutes, so that's an hour and a half a day spent travelling. This isn't to say that commuting time is wasted - you can nap, read or listen to music - but it's still time spent doing something you don't need to do.
Now that broadband in the home is commonplace and laptops make working almost anywhere an odd reality there's little need to go into work every day. Many jobs can be performed from home and the worker needs only to pop into the office for meetings and to consult files. Of course, this doesn't work for every job, but you'd be amazed at the number of people in the service professions who can do it.
Home working doesn't only save time. Companies' biggest fixed cost is usually the building they occupy and, with fewer people in the office, the company doesn't need quite so much expensive space. Workers save on travel costs, can cook their own lunches rather than rely on the local sandwich shop and don't need heating or air-conditioning at work. All in all it saves time, space and money, so home working is a winner in my book.
Shaun Nichols: With gas prices and train fares rising steadily, telecommuting is not only a time saver, it's a money saver too. Add to that the money saved from not having to buy lunch, and dry cleaning costs for work clothes, and you've got a pretty good way to significantly reduce expenses over the long haul.
Many people claim that working from home decreases efficiency because there are so many distractions. In small doses, however, telecommuting is actually more efficient. It's easier to focus when you're relaxed, and it's hard to be any more relaxed then while at home. Additionally, you tend to be less likely to waste away the hours on many of the online vices from our previous list.
After a few days it does become a bit difficult to work from home, however. When you live and work in the same place the two can often overlap, and focusing on the job gets tough. Additionally, sitting at home alone all day can get pretty lonely. After a while you actually do start to crave the social interaction of working in an office.
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