Advertisement

Does Information Technology Make Us Work More Or Work Less

There’s a lot going on in Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery’s piece on “The Great Speedup” and the disjoint between productivity growth and wage increases. But I’m not sure I buy the implicit message of this factoid about people using information technology to keep themselves tethered to the office even when they’re not at their desk:

Obviously, this kind of digital overtime happens. At the same time, looking at our traffic stats here at ThinkProgress it’s evident that an awful lot of people are reading blogs when they’re supposed to be at their desk working. Not that I mind, you understand, it’s just a noticeable trend. And traffic really falls off during that week between Christmas and New Years when relatively few people are working. That’s not because nobody can access the Internet when they’re not at their office, it’s because the flipside of using digital technology to work even when you’re not “at work” is using digital technology to slack off when you are at work. Certainly I do both of these things — it’s neither rare for me to be reading an ESPN article during working hours nor to be reading a work email after hours. That’s the nature of modern life. Whether digital overtime or online slacking predominates is an interesting question, and I think that to get a real picture of what’s happening you need to look at both sides.

Advertisement