The internet has already fundamentally changed the way we work. The fact that I’m sitting at home in my pyjamas drinking green tea, at work, is a very basic proof of the concept. But scaled up, it has done everything from create a range of new jobs that simply didn’t exist before to transforming the hours we work and where we put them in. That’s a lot to tackle in one column — and even more for society to manage.
For a start, the office has changed completely. I’ve recently been reading Jilly Cooper’s ‘How to Survive from Nine to Five,’ because as a freelancer finding out what the Queen of bonkbusters has to say about working office life is officially part of my job. Written in 1970, it explains how to slack off in the typing pool, smoke distractingly in meetings and manage multiple affairs.
This is what people did to waste time at work before they had cat videos and Twitter. Although social media may not be the giant time sink your boss thinks it is: according to a Microsoft/Ipsos poll, 53% of 18-24 year-olds think using social tools makes them more productive at work. Microsoft certainly has a long and noble history of providing such toys: for much of my generation, using MSN Messenger while writing university essays taught us to balance old-school pre-internet book-based research and the immediate gratification of using emojis (or smileys, as we called them) in realtime chat.