5 Workplace Time Sucks – None, Social Media Related. Really!

Steve Boese Bad HR, HR Tech, Social Media, Steve Boese

So, you’re the HR pro who has been charged by the CEO or the CIO or Legal, or really anyone who should be worried about more important things than to examine and update the organization’s technology acceptable use policies to account for the growing popularity of social media. The muckety-mucks, (heck maybe even you), are concerned about employees ‘wasting time’ on sites like Facebook and Twitter.  You may even feel like it’s high time to come down hard and make sure people realize that ‘work’ is work, and not online Happy Hour.

Well, slow down for a minute there, hoss. Before you go guns-a-blazin’ on Susie from Accounts Payable who seems to be a wee bit too popular on Twitter, get your hands around some of these office technology and productivity sucking nightmares first, presented in no particular order. (Correction, presented in the order I thought of them).

1. ‘Your mailbox is almost full’ and its close cousin ‘Do you want to auto-archive your old items now?’

Who knows?  What the heck will happen to them? Shouldn’t you, Mr. IT dude, be archiving this stuff for me?

Most people have free personal email accounts from Google or Yahoo, have used them for years and years, have thousands of messages, files, and even attached pictures (at least from the pre-Facebook era), and have never had to worry about storage space.  In many organizations today, the average new hire starts smashing into mailbox size limits about six months into a new role. Now instead of focusing on important stuff, (What pub near here has the best Happy Hour?), they get to spend time on assessing which emails to delete.  And if they are like 99% of people, they delete the messages with the largest attached files first, regardless if they were important or not.  Hmm, if I delete that last PowerPoint from marketing, I will free up 10MB of space – awesome!

2. Corporate voicemail password length requirements.

There are numerous corporate systems that require  7 or 10 digit passwords.  Then they force you to reset them every 60 or 90 days to another meaningless 7 or 10 digit string.  And to top it all, they don’t let you use 1234567 or 7654321 as valid codes.  This sucks.  How much time will you waste this year wrestling with your voice mail passcode?  And for what? Ninety-three percent of your voicemail messages are ‘Hi Joe, this is Bob.  I’m returning your call.  Tag, you’re it. Haha.’

Better keep those gems under heavy security.

3. Printer/copier ‘sleep mode’.

Sure, it saves energy, and costs the company a few pennies less per day for the giant, 6800 pound copier to lapse into power-saving sleep mode after a period of non-use.  It’s great for everyone except if you happen to be the first person that submits a print job or needs to copy something and has to wait for the behemoth to wake-up.  This sucks, and the few cents of electricity the company saves is more than offset by the cost of paying your sorry butt for standing there for five minutes so you can copy this week’s fantasy football standings.

4. Ridiculously long ‘Acceptable Use’ agreements

When we get to work, we fire up the trusty old PC that is still running Windows XP (it’s unbreakable, dammit!), and wait while it chugs along on its four minute thirty-seven second boot up process.  But before we can launch the day’s activities we get presented with the organization’s acceptable use agreement.  You know the one that renders in 8 or 10 point font, that gives us a stern warning about ‘these computers and systems are company property’ and ‘the company reserves the right to monitor all actions and review all content’, and ‘you better not secretly be working for one of our competitors while you are here, and if we catch you trolling PokerStars.net we are going to shut you down’. No one reads these agreements in the morning, making the need to explicitly click them Every. Single. Day.  that much more insane.

5. PowerPoint Animation

You have done this.  You are guilty. Admitting you have a problem is the first step towards getting help. But seriously, all the combined time spent creating, modifying, replaying, viewing, and faking enthusiasm for the CEO’s crappy PowerPoint animations still dwarfs the time ‘wasted’ mucking around on Farmville.  Think about it, how much of your life has vanished into the ether watching bullet point four s-l-o-w-l-y emerge on to the screen, only to do a brief Scott Hamilton-esque spin maneuver before landing perfectly under bullet point three.

The thing is, use of social sites like Facebook and Twitter certainly have the potential to be a distraction, and can occasionally cause a normally productive and efficient employee to ‘waste’ some time.  But they also have the potential to be beneficial tools, sources of information, connections, and unexpected and new ideas that might both improve personal and organizational performance.

No one gets any smarter, and the company doesn’t gain anything from employees futzing around with voice mail passcodes and clearing paper jams.  Fix the easy problems first, the ones you know waste time, energy, and enthusiasm out of people. Then worry about Facebook.