The War on the Workplace

By Stan Gibson  |  Posted 2003-03-31 Print this article Print

Gibson: Constantly checking on updates to the war can cause stress and an unproductive workplace.

I would have prepared a column for this issue, but I spent the whole week checking out online news sources for updates to the Iraq war. What a distraction! Then I noticed the issue that I was most involved with—procrastinating by checking out the progress of the war all the time—was itself getting plenty of attention.

Across my desk came a release from the National Mental Health Association, which has weighed in with advice on keeping people on an even keel. "Were trying to get people to create an environment where employees are kept informed but not inundated with news sources, especially visual ones," said Mary Graham, senior policy adviser of NMHA, in Alexandria, Va. Graham said that while print news stories are not a big problem, visual images can be quite disconcerting. The psychological theory behind that is not clearly defined, but evidence from earlier disasters, including Sept. 11, 2001, showed that workers who repeatedly viewed disturbing images suffered far greater mental stress than those who pried themselves from the TV.

"Visual images have a very negative effect on peoples mental health," said Graham. So companies that prohibit streaming video via filtering software are on to something, she added.

Even with intelligent workplace news management, she said, "people have to understand that people may be working more slowly and missing some deadlines."

As my own deadline neared and passed, the obvious began to dawn on me: No matter how much news you access, doing so doesnt help our cause a bit. And you have, in your small way, decreased American productivity and denied yourself the satisfaction of doing your job well, and that can have an impact on both you and others.

And thats the last Last Word. Thats right, this column is going away with this issue. Thanks to the many who have chimed in with e-mail. Look for a new column lineup next week. Regards,

Stan Gibson is Executive Editor of eWEEK. In addition to taking part in Ziff Davis eSeminars and taking charge of special editorial projects, his columns and editorials appear regularly in both the print and online editions of eWEEK. He is chairman of eWEEK's Editorial Board, which received the 1999 Jesse H. Neal Award of the American Business Press. In ten years at eWEEK, Gibson has served eWEEK (formerly PC Week) as Executive Editor/eBiz Strategies, Deputy News Editor, Networking Editor, Assignment Editor and Department Editor. His Webcast program, 'Take Down,' appeared on He has appeared on many radio and television programs including TechTV, CNBC, PBS, WBZ-Boston, WEVD New York and New England Cable News. Gibson has appeared as keynoter at many conferences, including CAMP Expo, Society for Information Management, and the Technology Managers Forum. A 19-year veteran covering information technology, he was previously News Editor at Communications Week and was Software Editor and Systems Editor at Computerworld.

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