Tech Happy Colleagues
“I have worked at a small financial firm for about eight years. Almost a year ago we hired a number of new people, and several of them surf the Internet up to half of the workday — shopping, watching YouTube videos, you name it. When not on the computer, they are fiddling with their personal devices, texting or whatever. We’re in an “open” studio space, and those of us who actually work can’t help but notice. We also pick up the slack and fix the mistakes that these people make because they are constantly distracted. We have no human resources department to complain to. What to do? “
Before you judge your tech addicted colleagues, consider two things. First, as the digital era has injected more work responsibilities into personal time, many workers feel they have every right to take personal time on the job: If I have to answer the boss’s email over the weekend, then I get to read the latest post from Hojor on Facebook on my company computer.
Second, as unlikely as this may sound, activities that look suspiciously like time-wasting may be part of some people’s natural process — if I watch a funny YouTube video to lift my mood while contemplating on a work-related problem, maybe that’s no different than staring off into space or “looking busy” if it helps me think through that problem before my deadline.
All of this is relevant even if it doesn’t strictly apply to your tech-happy colleagues. That’s because you need to focus not so much on their behavior as on its consequences. Instead of fixing their mistakes, you and your non-Internet-addicted allies should see to it that these genuine problems come to the partners’ attention. If the bosses wonder aloud why X is so behind and Y keeps messing up, you might discreetly raise the distraction issue. But a preferable outcome would involve the bosses deciding to pay more attention to what’s happening in their “open” office.