Opinion: You knows IT…

You know the feeling. You arrive handy to work on a Monday morning ready to fire off a statement to the weeklies relating to some issue or other that has captured part of the weekend news agenda.

But on entering the office, you find a bunch of anxious colleagues, looking rather perplexed because the organisation's IT server has opted for a duvet day and nothing is working.

Or rather, nothing is working that you now readily turn to to get your job done, i.e. email and internet.

Yes, the joys of running an overly IT-focused media strategy and then being faced with a reality check on your everyday practices.

Worse still, you half understand the internal priorities of your main outlets within the shorter period that now passes for their press week. What chance therefore that they'll welcome the extra hassle of a pushy comms person on the phone first thing on a Monday?

Thankfully you signed off a press release the previous day and the photocopier is working. So through a combination of short but prompting telephone calls and a working fax machine – the office equivalent of the Spinning Jenny – the job gets done.

In retrospect at least, such moments can be looked upon fondly as an occasional healthy exercise in the more traditional methods and tools of communication. There is however, a broader point about how we function throughout the working day.

A few years back, Liverpool City Council ambitiously introduced a "good to talk" policy of email free Fridays that made people pick up the phone and converse with the world beyond the authority as well as colleagues. Given recent activities involving a few of the city's senior players, some might suggest they should have banned email altogether...

It appears though, that it is not only good for us to talk but also more healthy. This is a recent conclusion from Sport England, which has remarked negatively about the general penchant for emailing colleagues about anything and everything rather than wandering over to one another's desks for some quality face to face. The report – part of the body's 'Everyday Sport' campaign – has suggested that such reduced physical activity around the workplace is causing us to pile on the pounds.

Fair as these observations are, they rather miss the point that that's the deal with technological advance – your way of doing things changes as a consequence.

A famous Mancunian once asked whether the mind ruled the body or vice versa. In fact, the answer to this dilemma lies fairly and squarely with the ways in which we use technology. While you might feel better off spending more of your working day nattering to colleagues, why not use the systems available to ensure you leave the office on time and get down to the gym or five-a-side courts. And being frank, I'm more inclined to consider the healthy workplace one where the IT server is virus free.

Ian Parker is Head of Strategic Communications at the New Local Government Network www.nlgn.org.uk

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