Look, I know what you’re thinking: last year everyone was swearing up and down online video conferences were the future of work and now we are going back to our offices. But the big picture – it has changed, and the culprit is not even the pandemic. It’s technology.
Workplace Is Everything Place
While future jobs are going to see more equity and opportunities for everyone, work is going to remain just as or even more hectic, especially if you’re in business or tech.
Why? Same old.
Texts. Emails. Calls. Messages. Notifications. Mentions. Updates. In fact, the constant stream of information might get stronger as the pace at which we work has been increasing.
Predictably, getting distracted every fifteen seconds has a negative effect. You spend more time working but produce fewer results.
(This is because multitasking is bad for your brain. Proven by science.)
And yet technology is necessary. Somebody has to read those texts, emails, calls, messages, et cetera.
Professionals around the globe are trying to figure out how to solve the workplace dilemma. Among them is Cal Newport, a computer science professor, who coined the term “digital minimalism”.
“[Digital minimalism is] a philosophy of technology usage in which you focus your online time on a small number of selected and optimised activities that strongly support things that you value and then happily miss out on everything else”.
– Cal Newport
The book, in which Newport outlines the principles of his philosophy, has become a bestseller. The simple idea touched something in the very heart of hearts of the American employee, enough to promptly go viral.
The Art of Paying Attention
On the internet you can see quite a few people arguing that digital minimalism is the future of work, especially for IT specialists, work-from-home employees, and freelancers.
I’m not trying to argue Newport’s approach is faulty. Personally, I think it’s neat. In fact, I would only be happy if the business world embraced most of the principles described in the book.
What I have a problem with is the common belief that changing one’s mindset is enough. It’s not.
When it comes to work, you have little control over how things are done. The software your company uses, the office layout, the communication, the schedule – unless you’re at the top of the ladder, all of these are out of your hands.
In the age of information overload, the companies that acknowledge the need for “digital detox” or any other similar concept do so for very practical reasons. Just like us. Where employees see less stress, companies notice the opportunity for increased productivity and employee retention. Everybody wins.
The workplace “digital minimalism”, when implemented carelessly, takes on the form of restriction. Limited access to certain websites would be one obvious example; of course this attitude is doomed to fail.
What really works in the long term is change. It doesn’t have to be an all-out reform. A few tweaks to the policy can do wonders.
- Communication. Using multiple apps to communicate, scattering information across the platforms? Too much noise. Texting in the group chat allowed 24/7? Not unless employees work in different time zones.
- Awareness. Statistically, most people at your office have never even heard about managing time spent online. Your HR can help by spreading the word.
- Innovation. There are alternatives to the most mundane things that can improve your workplace (and everyday life) by miles. For example, keeping notes on your phone can be replaced by voice typing, the AI acting as your personal secretary.
The goal here is not to reduce the time spent online per se, but to remove any unnecessary distractions. It just so happens that most of those are caused by gadgets.
As jobs grow more and more saturated with technology, we are going to have to learn to stay productive while using all the technical progress has to offer. The future of the workplace is being shaped by our decisions.
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