Is attention the new ‘work ethic’ for the information age?

Small businesses, just like big business, struggle with accommodating the work personality of GenY. With numerous social networks and other online communication tools, it can be difficult to determine if your employees are working or just socializing on the clock. Many companies, large and small, are beginning to embrace the social media culture at work, but many are still hesitant to jump on the bandwagon believing that full access to the Internet will be too distracting.

Last week Mike Elgan wrote about the death of hard work and cited that "control of attention is the ultimate individual power," from Malcolm Gladwell's latest book, Outliers (which I got for Christmas and will be reading soon). Elgan's commentary and Seth Godin's take on Gladwell's concept of stardom from 10,000 hours of hard work really got me thinking.

As a community manager, I spend a lot of my work day on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Reader. For quite some time, I've believed that I'm at my best when juggling several things at once. The demands of numerous activities force me to schedule everything I do and stay organized to make sure everything gets done. I can see that multi-tasking isn't the best option for everyone, especially if you tend to already be unorganized or a procrastinator. But, for those of us anal-retentive types, it's a great way to make sure you're balancing work-life and personal-life demands.

Instead of suggesting that undivided attention is the new work ethic, my vote is for prioritization. Attention is critical to prioritizing since you have to evaluate everything on your plate and decide how much time and attention something needs for the day, week, etc. So, I don't completely agree or disagree with what Elgan wrote. But, with all the things being asked of us for our jobs and lives, I think the true "individual power" lies within our ability to prioritize our to-do lists.

What do you think the new work ethic is?

About the Author: Kara Krautter