Content breeds contentment

One of the perks of the contemporary office is its Internet connection. In fact, without one, companies like Clockwork Media would have a hard time existing. But the Internet does far more than merely enable companies like this one to service its clients, it keeps us abreast of industry trends and competitors’ activities and shows us exactly who is doing what and how well.

But it can also be a distraction, and when you have the whole of the digital economy’s output to hand, “research” can potentially go on forever. It’s for that reason that a large number of companies — even some where the core business is understanding and harnessing this digital distraction — have clamped down on employees’ ability to digitally roam.

funny-twitter-acronyms-and-birdsThere are a few reasons a draconian digital policy is a bad idea, but chief among them is what it does to morale and performance. If your business is realtime commodity trading, social media is going to be tough to justify to the higher ups, but even then blocking it may do more damage than good.

For a start, people need downtime. A tea break spent on Twitter or Facebook can have the same head-clearing effect as receiving a personal phone call or engaging in banter around the proverbial water cooler (we actually have one of those).

But more importantly, for many knowledge economy workers, social media does more than remind them of the number of their friends getting married or having babies, it serves as their primary source of news and culture.

Sure, there are those people who claim to wile away hours of every day online, but if your staff are in a position where they feel able and justified doing so, perhaps the issue lies with the work with which they’re tasked. If someone can spend half of every day on Facebook and still perform their job perhaps they need a new job?

Since I joined a company that specialises in communications, my social output has fallen. Why? Because I’m too busy creating content to consume and disseminate other peoples’ en masse. Nonetheless, it’s still important both for my work and my sense of balance that if someone sends me the “most epic cat fail video ever” I know I can take five minutes out to watch it.

Moreover, I’ve taken to spending 20 minutes after especially busy days “watching the Internet” (as a former flatmate put it) in the same way a busy executive might watch the weekend’s sports highlights on a Sunday night so that he’d be prepared for Monday’s water-cooler confab.

Thanks to the curation and peer review mechanisms inherent in social media, dipping into it once or twice a day is often all it takes to catch up on the memes, campaigns, articles or galleries most distracting office workers on any given day. The cream will rise.

“Catching up” isn’t just good for those moments when someone asks, “OMG, have you seen X?” but, if you work in any sort of communications industry, it’s essential for understanding the way incessant connectivity is shaping culture. It might also prompt your next bright idea.

If you make or shape content you need to consume it, too. As with anything, it’s moderation that separates unhealthy addiction and constructive creativity and contentment.

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