No internet access - how we discovered quite recently how that's not necessarily always a bad thing...
As usual, I plodded merrily along into the Startacus office last Wednesday, cheerily planning the day’s work in my head when I was met with a scene I had been dreading for many a moon...the internet had finally stopped working...
Panic ensued as questions shot across the room “How will we work?” “What about the research?” and “What about today’s articles? Where will they go?” until, after several anarchic minutes, the awful news finally came around… the internet could be down all day...
Hopeless and dejected we set to work with paper and pen “like cavemen” as one co-worker observed, with little thought of achieving anything productive - bar perhaps the odd inspirational doodle. But then something quite remarkable transpired, the hours which followed were probably the most productive we have ever had. With a little encouragement, our brains were kicking into gear and pens glided earnestly across the page producing reams of interesting original content. Lively conversations and debate sparked up, whilst opinions which would normally have been gleaned from research were drawn out of reinvigorated co-workers.
Don’t get me wrong, Startacus has always been a very creative and collaborative place but the removal of the internet had seemed to have a kind of freeing effect on us… the whole experience though has left a burning question rattling around in my head … is the internet holding us back?
I'm not talking about the instances when you get sidetracked for twenty minutes by a particularly juicy Facebook scandal but rather when the internet actually gets in the way of a task it was supposed to be helping you with.
Take for example planning an article, something which I do on a daily basis but on reflection cannot remember ever doing without the use of the internet. The problem I sometimes find is that the internet is so accessible, so detailed and so interesting that it compels you to check every point, every date, every figure until your plan is no longer the structural reference it should be but rather a higgledy-piggledy unstructured mish-mash of vaguely relevant points scrawled across a pad.
More generally the sheer volume of information has often led me on a completely different trajectory than the one I began on, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. However perhaps the time spent getting from one idea to the next could have been better spent focused and determined with a pen and paper?
Of course these outcomes might be a result of my own tendency to become intermittently scatterbrained, but take then a more general office task like communicating with your coworkers- I will concede that there are many occasions when email is an excellent tool for communicating within an office, but I have come across many environments where two co-workers sitting at arms length from each other would prefer to send an email rather than break breath to one another.
Not only is it impersonal and inefficient - it promotes poor employee relations and can be incredibly time consuming if the writer labours over every word to make sure that all possible ambiguity has been removed. Worse still, if ambiguity remains and misunderstanding ensues based on ineffectual irony or humour… then you could really have a problem on your hands.
This is by no means a call to abandon the internet in the workplace - as inspiring as it was - one day without it was quite enough! However perhaps sometimes we might be better trying to connect with our brains and each other rather than our high-speed fibre-optic wifi?
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