Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Step Away from the Computer

The computer and Internet have changed the way we live and conduct business. Both are powerful business tools and, undoubtedly, enable us to innovate and solve problems more quickly and efficiently. It isn’t difficult to convince most people of the value that computers and the Internet bring to the workplace. But how many are aware of the negative impact that excessive reliance on computers and the Internet can have on performance, productivity, and even health?
Review the points below and consider how you use these tools at work. You may want to make some changes that could serve you better, professionally and personally.
Communication: There is no question that today’s workers manage the majority of their communication through email. Many workers are using less verbal communication in the workplace, and their proficiency and comfort in exercising this important skill is negatively affected. Computer time has limited the need for face-to-face interaction, which can hinder the development of necessary social skills for establishing and maintaining strong business relationships.
Productivity: Sure, computers and the Internet have created efficiencies in the workplace. But can we assume they drive productivity as well? In many cases, the answer is yes. However, you should be aware of how they can also impede productivity. To discern when computer and Internet time have stopped being productive, ask yourself the following questions:
  • Are you wasting time responding to unnecessary emails or interrupting productive tasks to answer incoming email?
  • During job-related Internet research are you clicking mindlessly through cyberspace?
  • Are you using the computer to check Facebook and Twitter or to shop and perform other non-work activities?
  • Is Internet surfing, whether work-related or not, a means for procrastinating on tasks that require your attention?
Health: Excessive computer time can actually have negative effects on your health. In fact, several indicators and medical reports support this claim. For example, workers who report significant time at the computer are experiencing eye strain, back pain, headaches, carpal tunnel, fatigue, and weight gain. If this sounds like you, consider maintaining good posture and using frequent breaks to stretch and take short walks. Some employers are willing to invest in ergonomic office furniture—even onsite yoga and chair massages—to help employees who are experiencing physical strain on the job.
Awareness is the key. So next time you’re “working” at the computer, ask yourself if your productively working, procrastinating, or playing? The answer may save your job—and improve your health.

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