Aleck Loker, Writer

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Computers Reduce Productivity

Posted by Aleck Loker on July 5, 2014 at 3:30 PM

Thirty years ago computers appeared on desks in the workplace of government and corporate employers. These devices promised increased productivity; the result has been a significant decrease in productivity and, ironically, personal communication. Here’s why.

 

Face-to-face communication is now a rarity. Example--I was doing a consulting job for a college and needed the facilities manager to have some signs installed. He shared an office with the employee who would do that task. The employee was visible to us at his desk. The facilities manager sent him an e-mail asking for the signs installation. It would have more productive to speak to the individual, answer any questions he might have and get the immediate assurance that the job was underway. That’s an example from the past. Nowadays, it is virtually impossible to talk face-to-face with most people when they are at work. Automated telephone systems and e-mail insulate them from this kind of effective communication with customers.

 

The bigger issue is what people at work do with those ubiquitous computers and their official Internet accounts. These devices and communication accounts should not be used to play computer games, make personal on-line transactions, or engage in “social media” activities. Yet this goes on all day in government and corporate workplaces.

 

Proof is readily apparent every day. Now that I am retired, I look at Facebook throughout the day. There I see postings on Facebook pages by people who I know are at work and who are spending time putting information on Facebook totally unrelated to their jobs. Frequently the information they post represents an extreme political view and has come from other Internet sites. They have cut and pasted this material or the link to this material onto Facebook. This activity is not trivial. It is a significant waste of time and saps the productivity of their employer’s operation.

 

Yesterday I received an email that forwarded a politically motivated diatribe about an elected official. I wasn’t disturbed by the content of the political attack. What disturbed me was the e-mail contained a disclaimer from one of our local banks. The presence of the disclaimer makes it clear that someone employed by that bank either originated this e-mail or forwarded it using the bank’s computer and corporate Internet account. By the time the e-mail got to me, the identity of the employee had been removed.

 

These examples may seem trivial, and taken individually they are. However, from my work experience and observations since retirement, it seems clear that employees are wasting a substantial amount of time sending personal e-mails, browsing inappropriate Internet sites, and posting personal opinions on social media sites. Computer technology has also inhibited effective communication between employees and the customers they are paid to serve.

 

Personal use of employers’ computers is not a constitutional right. Government and corporate employers need to take steps to eliminate the misuse of their computer and communication resources. National productivity has declined due to these abuses and they should be curtailed.

 

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