A current topic in the news in the United Kingdom relates to a report by the Mental Health Foundation about how modern life leads to people being more lonely and the physical and mental health impacts of this loneliness. In a radio interview today, an interviewee was heard to state that modern working life makes them more lonely, because they have to spend so much time entering data to do their jobs, that they can’t afford the time to interact with colleagues as part of their work.
So does this mean that data makes you lonely?!?
Although the interviewee held the view that “data” was a cause of loneliness at work, I would suggest that poor data practices may lead to this position and that good approaches to data should enable more communication and interaction with colleagues at work.
If most employees in an organisation have to spend the majority of their time entering data, then this suggests that there is continued creation of ‘things/events/people’ about which data needs to be recorded. Since the planet is not overflowing with these ‘things’, we are not all struggling to deal with these ‘events’ and the rate of population growth is not infinite, then it suggests that data is not really the problem. What is more likely is that employees are being required to re-enter data about things/events/people which are recorded elsewhere, which is a symptom of poor data practices. Employees should, once initial identification of the relevant subject has been established, only be required to record what is new or has changed.
So, to take an alternate view, should good data practices stop you being lonely? Well, clearly, there may be many factors that influence loneliness, so we should perhaps rephrase the question as “Should good data practices enable you to interact better with colleagues?”
In this case the answer should be “Yes”.
- Good data practices should enable sharing and re-use of data reducing the time actually spent on data entry
- Better quality data (or at least data of known quality) should reduce abortive work due to incorrect decisions and assumptions
- Better quality data should improve the outputs of reports and analytics
- Clarity on the definitions of data should enable less time to be spent trying to find the right data to use
- Better structured and integrated data should allow more ability to develop and deliver new insights into the performance of an organisation
All of the above should mean that staff are not wasting time endlessly re-entering data and should have more time for meaningful discussions about their work activities. This in turn should help build team morale and lead to greater effectiveness. Sadly, the interviewee mentioned above does not work in such an organisation.
Does data make you lonely?