Work-Life and Computing

I’ve had the hunkering to write all day today. I know that I’ve had a ton of subjects in mind, but nothing is really clear at this point.

I’m writing this in notepad on a laptop that’s 5 or 6 years old at this point. It was old when I received it, and after a few years with it, and a number of behavioral and perception changes on my end, I’ve been able to solidly use this as a work laptop. Suffice to say, its old, and so are the reasons that I need to keep using it.

I’ve got a smartphone (ok, a few smartphones), I’ve got a tablet computer (no, not at iPad but a Nokia N800). Shouldn’t work-life computing be a lot different? With these tools, why is it that I have to be (a) siloed in physical locations, (b) siloed in applications, and (c) using hardware and services not optimized for the workflows that I’m employed to efficiently manage and demonstrate to others?

Yes, from a technological end, work-life sucks. There’s no reason that I should be limited in use or behavior. But, I’m peculiar. For example, my N97 smartphone does things such as automatically set an alarm to wake me in the morning, automatically connects to the enterprise server between 8am and 6pm to collect email (aka, no email after hours, ever), and a few other things that I have it do without my intervention. This is how technology should be serving to make me more productive. But that’s just not the case all around.

I still have to ping folks that documents are updated on SharePoint – despite users being able to set their own alerts. Emails are sent with attachments and asked to be collaborated over, versus either placing documents in a shared workspace or using more malleable tools such as SharePoint Lists and web pages. And tons of other things. I’m not (necessarily) going to bash what I’d prefer over what I and others do. The point is that the tools are more than able to make things smoother, we just don’t move towards that.

And that’s why I wonder about the supposed “iPad effect.” Yea, there will be a few folks who will be able to champion the use of this nicely designed touchscreen computer to people who really do nothing more content consuming and light editing (aka, getting rid of laptop workstations is a good thing for these folks). There’s also going to be the opportunity to look at how to better develop mobile/web applications to sell as a service for those companies who are really virtual in their office productivity, and only use client applications because they think that’s the only way to do office life. That can and should change (ok, so there is an iPad stimuli to thing, but for me it happened much earlier).

What won’t, at least not quickly enough for me, is the inclination and behaviors around how/why we do a lot of this stuff. Shouldn’t checking into the workplace be totally virtual by the use of signing onto a corporate server (ex. you are required to be logged in between 8am and 430pm, M-F on MS Office Communicator regardless of the computing device you use to log in). Shouldn’t companies be graded on their abilities to use software and services to promote these kinds of changes – like a green environmental rating, except for behavior and tech changes. There’s a lot that we do which is wasteful – from types of email communication to using web forms instead of documents to not using code/image snippets from a shared server – which would be nice to see challenged and changed.

And those changes need to reflect relevance and value back to those companies. If that value isn’t easily seen (better work-life balance, increased ability to use working hours for productive events, etc.), then it won’t change. In fact, legislation and circumstance will cause things to get worse.

Given my vantage point on people, processes, and technology, I see these things. And I’m on a laptop, within Notepad, typing the reasons why I know we need to change (there goes Matthew 7:1-4 again).

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