Social media, multi-tasking & ending billable hours

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Thanks to the web and social media, interruptions have become not just a way of life, but a way to work according to survey data out from Cisco. The networking giant found that among college students and young professionals, 24 percent experience three to five interruptions in a given hour, while 84 percent get interrupted at least once while trying to complete a project.

What’s stunning about this isn’t that college students and young professionals (defined by Cisco as folks in their first job out of college) are being interrupted, it’s Dave Evans’ assessment that these interruptions are now part of the way of corporate life. Evans, who is Cisco’s chief futurist, conveniently points to more survey data showing that seven out of 10 respondents friend managers and coworkers on Facebook as well as follow them on Twitter. Evans says that they work there. Given that young people are conducting work online via social media sites, and that they are both multi-tasking and being interrupted, I wonder if we need to rethink the billable hour?

For lawyers, contractors, accountants and many other professionals, following, responding to and interacting with clients and coworkers via social media isn’t the type of work that can be broken down into hour-long chunks. Plus, as we tote smartphones and fire off quick emails on the fly, that does take a toll on our family lives and intrudes on the mental break we may need from our work. These two-minute tasks are no longer a side element to work, but make up a considerable chunk of it. The nature of work is changing, and perhaps the way contractors and other professionals charge people for it should change as well.

Other data worth noting from the survey includes:

  • Two out of three surveyed would choose the Internet over a car.
  • Two of five college students surveyed globally said the Internet is more important to them than dating, going out with friends, or listening to music.
  • More than one in four college students globally (27 percent) said staying updated on Facebook was more important than partying, dating, listening to music, or hanging out with friends.
  • One of every three college students and employees surveyed globally believes the Internet is a fundamental resource for the human race – as important as air, water, food and shelter. About half believe the Internet is “pretty close” to that level of importance.
  • Two-thirds of students and more than half of young employees cite a mobile device (laptop, smartphone, tablet) as “the most important technology in their lives.”
  • Smartphones are poised to surpass desktops as the most common tool from a global perspective, as 19 percent of college students consider smartphones as their “most important” device used on a daily basis, compared to 20 percent for desktops.
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