Initially one would think that the author – Ira Wagman – wanted to write about a website called Wasteaminute.com and how office workers use it as a way to escape boredom. But it turns out that she merely used this website as her take-off point in order to discuss the intrusion of digital technology into the workplace of the 21st century and that there is a major difference in how employer and employee view the use of such technology. For employers it is digital distraction while employees see it as an escape from boredom and respite from a numbing work that require employees to be chained to a desk.
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Ira Wagman used the techniques available to a researcher en route to the creation of this article. She used a variety of academic sources as well as newspaper reports to show different viewpoints regarding the use of digital media in the workplace. Aside from her ability to cull data from books, journals, websites, and national dailies, she is also an authority in the said subject matter because she is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies in the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.
She is also an accomplished author having penned a book entitled Log On, Goof Off, Look Up: Facebook and the Rhythms of Canadian Internet Use. This means two things; firstly, she knows how to process primary and secondary information – she is not only an expert in reading books and websites and lifting information from those sources but she also knows how to conduct research and gather first-hand data regarding the topic. Secondly, her book is proof that she knows what she is talking about because she already completed work on the study of how Canadian office workers use Facebook and other social network sites.
There is logic in her argument because even before the advent of digital media the problem with office boredom was already prevalent everywhere. It does not require a sociologist to understand how employees dread the thought of a weekend about to end and Monday morning sickness about to take effect. But in the 21st century the problem is exacerbated by the fact that a great amount of work is possible inside the limited confines of a cubicle. Everything can be completed in this claustrophobic environment. Multi-tasking is possible there such as writing emails, answering calls, use of fax machines, writing reports etc. This can make an employee feel that he or she is a prisoner unable to break the monotony of confinement.
There is more to Ira Wagman’s thesis than just the lament of office workers regarding the need to use digital technology not just for work but also as a means for escape from their confined environment. They want to use it as an escape from boredom. Others even argue that using social network sites and digital media for entertainment should not always be seen as a negative but can be viewed as a tool that can help employees increase their productivity.
The author was quick to support this assertion by showing that there are already contemporary office settings wherein there is an attempt “to mix both work and play, or better yet to use play in the service of work, to make ‘work’ more enjoyable for its workers” (Wagman, p.1). In other words if companies provide big screen TVs, gyms, game rooms etc., then why not extend this to the use of digital media technology? This is her primary question.
Wagman was also able to balance this suggestion with the counter-argument that office workers tend to abuse the use of technology and become unproductive in the work place. This is an unacceptable for employers at a time when shareholders dictate corporate policies according to Wagman. However, she also hinted that short-term profitability at any social cost is not healthy in the long run (Wagman, p.1). There is therefore a need to balance the need for control and freedom.
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The company is under obligation to be profitable while at the same time it has to consider that what makes the organization profitable are not the computers and the machines but the personnel behind these gadgets and equipment. This issue has to be resolved in the earliest time possible because as technology develops at a radical pace surveillance and the creative means to stop work and get distracted with social networking sites and web-based games will collide head on.
It is easy to agree with Wagman because she presented a balanced view on the matter of freedom and control. Employers put up capital and they shoulder a great deal of risk and therefore they must be rewarded with a profitable organization made possible by hard-working employees. On the other hand office workers are not machines, they get tired and they need more than just coffee breaks to get them through the day.
Office workers are social beings that cannot handle an eight hour grind doing nothing but looking at spreadsheets and writing reports. There is a need to limit surveillance, increase the freedom of workers, while at the same time employees must also improve on self-discipline.
The arguments of Wagman were all well-crafted and readers will agree with most of what she said, however, the issue is far from resolved because there is no hard and fast rules regarding how to implement a universal policy on how companies should provide time and resources for employees to take time-off from work and use digital technology to escape boredom, to be distracted for a short period of time so that they can go back to their work recharged or rejuvenated. No one knows how it can be done correctly.