https://digitalhealth.blog.gov.uk/2011/09/27/how-to-be-good-at-work/

How to be good at work

Warning: This is a blog about filing and productivity. It makes the case that social tools like Yammer help people to be less busy and more productive.

I took a day off a few weeks ago. When I returned to my desk - eager and refreshed - I found that 120 emails had arrived in my inbox while I was away. And I found that the combined size of the attachments to those emails had pushed me way over the allowed size limit for my inbox.

Frustrated post on Yammer about not being able to use email
Yammer message, posted in a moment of inbox size-limit frustration

It took me 45 minutes just to open Lotus Notes that morning, and the rest of the morning to delete enough emails to bring me back within my 300mb allowance, in order to regain my ability to send an email from my official account.

While I was doing this I posted a message on Yammer expressing my frustration. And later on, I received a message from someone - who I've never met - explaining how to set up linked folders in my mailbox. It explained how I could systematically file important emails and attachments in a shared repository as I receive or send them, rather than storing them in personal folders for my own reference, as was my habit. It offered me the promise that I would never find myself in this oddly hamstrung position again when I return to my desk after days away. I followed the instructions and they worked perfectly.

It was a great result for me, and provided some evidence that internal social networking can lead to productivity benefits. Without Yammer I probably would have just been grumbling under my breath. With it, someone heard my grumble and was able to intervene to offer practical help. It was an outcome that email, or intranet guidance, or a telephone hotline couldn't have provided on their own. It reminded me of behaviour I see all the time on Twitter.

I used this anecdote yesterday to introduce a workshop at DH titled "How to be good at work". The workshop was about knowledge management and productivity. And - while I appreciate that I might be a bit one-eyed about it - I think the culture and tools of social networking can go a long way to improve how people manage and share knowledge inside an organisation, and increase individuals' productivity at work. Lots of people could be a little bit more productive if they used more of the behaviours and the tools of social networking routinely at work.

Personally, I am much better at my job because of social tools. I'm better informed, often helped by others, better connected, more grateful, and more ready to share my own thoughts than I would be without tools like Yammer, Twitter and blogs.

Use of social tools is only one way to "be good at work" of course. But I'm struck by how well social tools can encourage the types of behaviours displayed by productive people.

The underlying theme of the discussion yesterday was the difference between being busy and being effective. In my experience, there's rarely a correlation between busyness (which tends to manifest itself in the stressful lurch from one urgent deadline to another) and effectiveness (which is more often seen in the calm delivery of planned objectives). I think social tools can help us all to be a bit less busy, and a bit more effective.

6 comments

  1. Comment by Maureen Metzger posted on

    Enthusiasticly "like" and agree with what you said:

    "I think the culture and tools of social networking can go a long way to improve how people manage and share knowledge inside an organisation, and increase individuals’ productivity at work. Lots of people could be a little bit more productive if they used more of behaviours and the tools of social networking routinely at work."

    I work in a US government health agency and wish that our IT folks understood this -- social media tools are not just about communicating with external constituencies (e.g., patients), they're about improving (abysmal) internal communcations, too!

    Reply
  2. Comment by Sarah Gibbons posted on

    Great post Stephen. It's amazing how much time very small steps like using e-mail effectively, storing information well, managing diaries properly can save. The interesting challenge is how you sell this to very busy colleagues, who feel they don't have time or space to examine how they work. I'd be really keen to hear from people from similarly large organisations who've managed to do this well.

    Reply
  3. Comment by francis posted on

    Old habits die hard!

    That said - there is certainly a place for collaborative tools that enable effectiveness and efficiency in any organisation. The question though is usually round policies that govern these things (e.g. record keeping) and the thought in staff's mind that this is yet "another system" to learn and use.

    In any case, I agree, "social tools can help us all to be a bit less busy, and a bit more effective."

    Reply
  4. Comment by Being good at work | DavePress posted on

    [...] Lovely post from Stephen Hale: I think the culture and tools of social networking can go a long way to improve how people manage and share knowledge inside an organisation, and increase individuals’ productivity at work. Lots of people could be a little bit more productive if they used more of behaviours and the tools of social networking routinely at work. [...]

    Reply
  5. Comment by www.bowelpain.net posted on

    Excellent article- I totally agree social tools can help is so much we have to embrace them and will shall see the results eventually on how they can be effective -clear desk clear mind

    Reply
    • Replies to www.bowelpain.net>

      Comment by Natalia posted on

      I really aritecpape the tips in your post. I am old to computers (Compuserve 1987) but new to Social Media. I have a very difficult time getting into the Social thing because I am basically an anti-social geek-girl. I do read a lot of blogs (like yours) that are concerned with business, and my own blog is basically an experiment in getting my feet wet in Web 2.0. I don't have comments yet, because I am still learning about the beast. Is it REALLY necessary to Twitter and all those other things? Or is it possible to stick with information-based blogs, websites, knols and wikis?

      Reply

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