MicroWork Is Just Work By a Smaller Name – Or Is It MicroHell?

David Broussard put up an interesting post on his blog the other day called MicroWork Is Just Work By Smaller Name. In the post, David says:

This is the promise of Social Business, or as I like to call it MicroWorking. When I am standing in line at the grocery store, I am often on my Smart Phone reading emails, or on Facebook, or Texting with someone…in short I am doing something in what was previously unusable time. This is the real potential of MicroWork or Social Business…turning unproductive time into productive time…especially when we are not at our desks.

  • Sitting in a conference room waiting for a meeting to start
  • Walking from one part of the building to another
  • Waiting in the lunch line
  • Walking from the car to the office
  • Getting a cup of coffee at the Starbucks

These are times that are often unproductive that can be made productive via MicroWork. What can we do in those time frames?

  • Approve invoices
  • Enter a timesheets
  • Review a document
  • Answer a question
  • Delegate a task to another person

You get the idea…the idea here is to figure out a bit of work that can be performed and turn it into a MicroWork task. In this manner we accomplish two very important things. First we make our workers more productive and second giving them work in a format that is easy to use and fits in with their lives.

I would recommend reading the entire post, as it’s quite interesting; this is just the tail end of it.

After reading the post, I was moved to add my $.02.

MicroWork is absolutely the current state of things, at least among my social circles (both words in their traditional meanings). I think it’s yet to be seen if or when there will be a backlash to this filling in all of the nooks and crannies of our time.

I know that my days now often feel too full. There’s precious little time I can set aside for self-reflection or family time where I don’t have my iPhone in my pocket. It’s become a bit of a crack high to pull it out of my pocket to see what’s going on with Facebook, Twitter, Yammer, email, etc. (in no particular order).

This is a microhell of my own doing of course.I could simply choose to shut it all off, but that gets harder all the time, as our work and “social” lives intertwine. One could posit that we are giving up too much of ourselves for the perceived benefit of others – a constant striving to belong in too many places.

The other downside I see is that work and non-work now coexist in microbursts. We are devoting increasingly smaller time slices with our attention to any particular “social” activity. If things like approving an invoice are in the “social” mix, are we paying enough attention to the details to make an informed decision? Or are those important (they are important if we need to do them, correct?) decisions becoming relegated to the importance level of clicking a “Like” button?

This new world order is undoubtedly here to stay in some form. Time will show us how it evolves from where it is, regardless what the tool makers would like to see us do.

In his response to my comment (also very worth reading), David recommended the book Hamlet’s BlackBerry: A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age. It’s already on my Kindle, ready to go.




  1. I started reading this while in line waiting my daughters smoothie to be made and i finished it in the waiting room at my dentist. I just ordered the book and will start reading it on my kindle tomorrow on my train ride to the office


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