Let's face it, work isn't supposed to be lots of fun. As my grandfather used to say, they call it 'work' for a reason.
That's why everyone needs to blow off a little steam during the day, and some research suggests that doing so actually makes us more productive. To keep from going crazy, we need to take a little break here or there. For those of us stuck behind a computer all day, this often takes the form of software and web sites.
There are going to be some people reading this who think 'Ah ha, I've just been given a list of sites to block at the firewall so my people will work harder!' Not a bit of it. Plenty of the names on this list are very useful and blocking them is counter-productive, as well as making the IT manager look like the Grinch.
This week, we count down some of our favourite wastes of time. At least, we will count them down at some point. Right after I check this one last site …
Mention: Instant messaging
Iain Thomson: Fair's fair, there is a strong business case for instant messaging. It's an invaluable tool for non-physical meetings and I use it daily to get in contact with the UK office without running up huge phone bills.
But that said, it's also a time sink in other ways. How often are you sitting at your desk working on something when some slacker who you have no interest in hearing from suddenly IMs because they are at a loose end. Unfortunately, politeness requires that you answer and before you know it you've spent 10 minutes in useless chatter and your train of thought has been hopelessly derailed.
But, I hear you say, isn't that just the same as an unwanted phone call? Not at all, thanks to the wonders of technology. If you don't want to be disturbed you can always shut the phone off and pretend you're out. With IM they know you are there and there's no escape. This is why I only turn the IM system on when contact would be welcomed.
Shaun Nichols: Yes, Iain, if only there were some sort of message you could put up to tell people that you're away from the desk or busy with work at the moment.
Even with 'away' messages there's a problem. Perhaps you're not busy talking to someone else via IM with legitimate business, but that one friend who just seems to have way to much free time sees you and sends the 'hello' message, followed a few minutes later by the dreaded 'are you there?' and then 'hellooooo?'.
Aside from the time-wasting dangers, there are other worries with instant messaging. Perhaps you have a conversation with your girlfriend in one window, a quick chat with a co-worker or boss in another window, and yet another containing a back-and-forth with your best friend. We've all been there, and we all know full well the dangers which arise when you're not paying very close attention to which window you're typing in. Even if you get along really well with your boss he's not going to want sweet nothings appearing in his IM box by mistake.
Mention: Text messaging
Shaun Nichols: Like our other honourable mention, text messages are a very useful technology that can easily become a distraction.
The big risk about SMS is that it is almost completely silent and easy to conceal. This can make it very easy to sneak in a text message or five while sitting at your desk. Helpful if you're setting up a dinner date, but hazardous if you're whittling away the minutes filling a friend in on last night's date.
This becomes an even bigger problem for those of us who have friends on the dole. Getting through that 3:00-4:00pm stretch is hard enough as it is, but it's nearly impossible when your out-of-work buddy is texting you from the couch with his theories about the connections between Greek mythology and Everybody Loves Raymond.
Iain Thomson: With friends like that Shaun ... SMS does have valuable uses, and it's of enormous value to the phone companies who make billions a year out of it. SMS, despite being very old technology, is still the most profitable data service on mobile phones today.
But we've all seen the effects of SMS on some people, particularly the youth of today. The next generation is going to get a crick in its neck from constantly being bent over a mobile phone, and scientists are already noting that extreme texters have begun using their thumbs to point at things rather than the traditional index finger. Humanity will only be saved because these people will get run over trying to cross roads while typing LMAO one more time.
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