by Sean O’Donnell, Group Copy Supervisor, Palio
It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times. As a child of the ‘70s we didn’t have access to our friends 24×7. Playing games with peers required actually going to someone else’s house or a playground. And, if you wanted to reach someone immediately, you had to hope they were home when you called or close enough that a shout out the window got their attention.
In the workplace, we were equally challenged. There was no email, video conferencing or instant messaging. We walked information to a colleague’s office or shared documents through manila interoffice mail envelopes. Top-secret information was stamped “confidential” and had the security of a string-and-button closure. And, for colleagues, customers and business partners in remote locations, we accepted having to wait days as paper traveled through the postal system.
However, as technology progressed and patience gave way to the need for immediacy, pagers and fax machines entered the workplace. There was newfound freedom as workers could leave the office knowing if anyone really needed to get in touch, they were just a few beeps away. The slick curls of paper exiting fax machines meant copy could be approved faster, invoices could be received quickly and information could be shared readily.
Technology advancement fueled an unprecedented boom in productivity, both by increasing efficiency as well as extending the typical workday. The taste for real-time information sharing created a voracious appetite for greater connectivity and collaboration, and as social and mobile technologies have entered the workplace, they’ve opened the channels of communication across borders and cultures. Looking at the people I communicate with each day (outside of family and officemates), I’ve never been in the same room with the majority of them. But, they color my thinking, influence decisions and represent a cornucopia of opinions, experiences and backgrounds beyond what I could have realized in a pre-social media world.
However, as incredible as social media and real-time connections are for information exchange and human connections, it’s not without its downsides.
While this never-having-to-wait-environment might be good for the speed of business, there is a price for it. Stress is common for workers who are compelled to work around the clock – whether that’s from managers putting pressure on employees to respond immediately, travel with Blackberry devices and iPhones on at all times or because employees feel pressured that if they don’t work 24×7, their colleagues will. Grammar and punctuation are also suffering as texting and tweeting becomes the norm, with people either truncating messages to shave time off composition or because they’re limited in character allotment.
With written communication, words are often misconstrued and tone in text is often hard to decipher. Our mistakes are now public, as is how we respond to them. And, losing some of the nuances of communication– eye contact, hand gestures, a softening smile – can also be detrimental. After all, we like to do business with people we like and it’s harder to like someone when you can’t look into their eyes or hear the smile in their voice.
Would I give up the ability to Facebook message a friend, tweet an interesting article I read to my network or make a single announcement every time I have an update to share? Not in a million years. Social media has forever changed how we connect and interact, but as nice as it is to have technology at our fingertips, there’s no replacement for sitting in the same room with someone, sharing a meal, a handshake or other human connection. After all, technology or not, by nature, we’re all social beings.
Palio is an advertising agency revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing to create experiences that will Never Be Forgotten.