The average Brit is forced to waste 24 working days (or 192 hours) a year, according to a survey by Crucial, the computer upgrade retailer.
The great unreported scandal about this is that if those Brits happen to be lawyers, IT consultants or in marketing agencies, then some poor client will get billed for that time. In service culture Britain, no time sheet must ever be blank. But that’s not the biggest outrage, there’s more.
The time is wasted primarily on waiting for deliveries, queuing and avoidable technology problems. There’s a common theme here. All these are processes involving technology or people who use it. When you’re stuck in a massive queue at the bar, while the staff all huddle around staring hopelessly at the till, that’s the fault of over ambitious technology designers and under-trained staff. When the cable installer doesn’t tell you he’s turning up at 12:55 for his ‘morning delivery slot’, that’s because he’s too inconsiderate to use the mobile technology provided to him. His employer should have trained him better. When Track Changes keeps crashing your Mac, and you find out this is a common problem, that’s because the software vendor screwed up but made you pay the price.
Crucial, as you would expect from the people who commissioned the survey, has an answer to the distress that these wasted days and lost revenue are causing. We should all buy some more computer upgrade products and, to this end, resellers really ought to stock up on memory and storage upgrades that will help our computers to run faster.
The logic is that slow-running computers are stressing us out while we wait for them to boot up or process whatever big data has been sneaked into our computers under false pretences.
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Behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings said this time-wasting has a traumatic effect, since the lack of power and control is in marked contrast with the massive expectations we seem to have for our lives.
“So much time in our lives is invested in waiting for things,” says Hemmings, “things are expected to happen in a certain way, at a certain time. When that doesn’t happen, we become frustrated because of our own lack of anticipation.”
It’s the marketing of technology that creates the massive expectations. It’s the lack of delivery on that promise that creates the ambition-trashing, self esteem-ruining disappointment that spreads too much stress and disharmony in society. Marketing convinces people they need something and social media is all about engendering a sense of mass panic among the human herd.
Surely, as an industry, we need to do more to deliver, don’t we?
This might be too much to ask, but couldn’t some clever IT reseller use technology creatively in order to make us happier? I’m buggered if I know how, but there must be a way that efficiency savings could give us more of our life back, rather than making us anxious to achieve even more fatuous pointless tasks.
Hemmings has made a start, by suggesting ways we can reduced the stress that technology created in the first place. Apart from using Crucial’s components to upgrade our computers, we could use technology to reclaim the time we waste while waiting for the BT engineer to turn up, the package to arrive from Amazon or the Virgin Media helpdesk queue to whittle down.
As a relationship counselor to the stars, Hemmings will understand how hurt many of us are on a daily basis here in the channel.
What about the relationship between vendors and distributors? A start-up vendor is like an unsigned band and the value added distributor that talent spots them is the Cowell-like Svengali who signs them up to his music label.
The VAD nurtures the young band, gets them some gigs and greases a few palms to get them some meetings with big players. But what happens when they go global and the millions start rolling in? The ungrateful little vendor starts moaning about the number of hotel rooms they’ve had to sleep in and sacks the VAD for a bigger distributor. The last thing you ever hear from them is that they’re just another small outfit sitting on the bench at a ‘broadliner’. The broadline distributor will have played the classic IT industry trick of over-promising the future and under-delivering the present.
Things are expected to happen in a certain way, at a certain time. When that doesn’t happen, we become frustrated
What does that do to everyone’s feelings? The broadliner remains as unhappy and unfulfilled as ever. The start-up feels remorseful and disappointed and full of misplaced anger. But it’s the poor VAD who deserves most sympathy. All that work, all that patient nurturing of talent, parental advice and media training, for what? A kick in the teeth.
“So much time in our lives is invested in waiting for things,” says Jo Hemmings, behavioural psychologist. “The British sense of correctness means that things are expected to happen in a certain way, at a certain time. When that doesn’t happen, we become frustrated because of our own lack of anticipation.”
You've got that right, Ms Hemmings. Crucial has made a good start with its memory upgrade campaign. But it’s just the first step in a 1,000 mile journey to making society less disappointed.
“Most people in the UK lead busy lives and don’t need their precious time wasted. Although many activities which cause this problem are genuinely unavoidable,” says Roddy McLean, a computer upgrade specialist from Crucial.com.
The distress is caused by the powerlessness we feel when a delay is forced on us and we feel we have lost control, explains Hemmings. “One way to alleviate that would be to always have something to do while you’re being delayed,” she says.
Well, we could all upgrade our computers, I suppose.
Image credit: Stockbyte
This was first published in August 2013