Nathan Zeldes toiled for many years in the high tech world, helping from his post in Israel to shepherd Intel through the hazards of information overload as the World Wide Web and e-mail exploded. These days he is a consultant, but he returns often to a story from his Intel days to highlight that the issue in regaining balance remains workplace culture more than technology or workload.
He worked with a female engineer who was smart and organized. She would head home at 5 p.m., and others would declare, shocked, “Already?” It was if leaving the office at a reasonable time was an offence against humanity. She was productive, but leaving at a sensible time rankled – seemed wrong. “There’s something evil about a culture that allows that to be acceptable,” he reflects in an interview.
Certainly technology is burdening us with more information than we can easily handle. In a recent blog post on information overload he noted that the typical knowledge worker receives 50 to 300 e-mail messages daily of which 30 per cent are useless, and spends 20 hours a week dealing with e-mail.
In the interview, he remembers the exciting time when laptops made it possible to work from home in the evenings. He was convinced this was positive: Instead of staying in the office, you could have dinner with the family, play with the kids, and then perhaps put in some time afterward tackling that important office project. But smartphones ruined that possibility. These days the smartphone beeps and rings through dinner and playtime with the kids, as a steady stream of urgent requests come in, by e-mail and voice. (Read More)