Do Cool Tech Workplaces Equal Productivity?

A Silicon Valley news website, recently posted its list of the best technology companies to work for

8 July 2008

Valleywag, a Silicon Valley news Web site, recently posted its “Top 10 Tech Workplaces”—a list of the best technology companies to work for. Those that made the list, such as Google and Netflix, have elaborate buildings, fancy interior decoration, game rooms, swimming pools, volleyball courts, and even movie theaters. Such amenities are designed to make workers feel less stressed, and therefore more productive.

Would such features make you more productive, and what types of amenities do you wish your office had?


Responses to April’s Question

Is Cyberspace Making You Sick?


A growing number of people are using the Internet to diagnose their illnesses—real or imagined—according to a report on Users type in their medical symptoms on Web sites like WebMD and get a list of possible illnesses in return. While some say such online resources are helpful, many doctors say that medical information without an expert’s analysis can turn people into “cyberchondriacs”—those who become anxious or believe they are sick based on what they read online.


Can diagnosing what ails you based on medical information online do more harm than good?


A Big, Big Help

Having online sources to go to for prediagnosis can greatly increase the chances of recovery, especially for rare diseases. I experienced this firsthand. When my daughter was 18 months old, she suddenly started falling down so much that she demanded to be carried all the time. Initially the pediatrician told us that 18-month-olds fall a lot. Fortunately, my wife is a registered nurse, and she knew this was not normal.

We saw a pediatric neurologist who diagnosed her with ataxia (a disorder that affects the nervous system and affects movement) of an undetermined nature and said it should clear up in a week or two. We began searching the Web for information on ataxia and came across the opsoclonus-myoclonus syndrome Web site, which had a video of a child who behaved like our daughter. Our neurologist had heard of the syndrome but had not considered it. The diagnosis was confirmed, and she was put on an investigative treatment plan and has responded extremely well. Now she is a happy, normal 3-year-old.

We believe that because we got an early diagnosis and began treatment quickly, the brain damage caused by this condition was minimal. Had we not investigated, we might have had a severely disabled child and no idea what was causing the problem. We are now strong believers in having medical information available and easily searchable.

Patrick Rauss
Adelphi, Md.


Self-Reliance Saved Me

As a disabled 31-year-old woman, I used the Internet to get a better idea of why parts of my body became paralyzed on and off all day, why I had problems breathing and digesting food, and why I was unable to walk or stand for long periods of time. I was able to find the name of my condition, other people with the disorder, how to manage it, and how to move forward with my life.

Doctors are mostly clueless about my rare disorder, and unless I tell them what it is and what to do, they are likely to cause me more harm than good. Without the Internet, I would still be bedridden and probably considering going into a nursing home.

Miriam Breslauer
Farmington, Mich.


Research, Then Confirm

I look up my symptoms online and decide on what I think is the most reasonable diagnosis and treatment. Then I go to the doctor and, without revealing what I’ve found, relate my symptoms and undergo an examination. When his diagnosis and treatment plan agree with mine, I feel confident that we are on the right track.

So far we have always agreed. If we ever disagree, I will be prepared to have a discussion so that I can understand clearly why we differ.

Holton Bond
Kill Devil Hills, N.C.


A Useful Check

These sites are educational and get patients involved with their own health and well-being. I have found Web sites like WebMD useful in determining what could be ailing me, but it’s best to leave it to an expert to confirm what’s happening. It is unwise for people to diagnose themselves. Too many symptoms are shared by different illnesses.

Either way, patients are making the right decision to see a doctor, whether they have real complaints or psychological issues that need to be addressed because they have no real complaint. It is the physician’s responsibility to take the patient seriously and to encourage a healthy habit of awareness. It is prevention and early detection that are key to reducing disease, and these Web sites help in both these areas.

Michael Higgins
Foster, R.I.


Be Prepared

In an age of 10-minute doctor interviews and tons of prescriptions, it makes sense to prepare for doctor visits by scanning medical literature on the Internet. The better prepared you are to discuss your problems within a frame of reference, the better your chances of getting help. If your doctor shows impatience with your findings, get another doctor.

Kenneth Hoffmann
Alexandria, Va.


Fewer Doctor Visits

We keep medical reference texts that we refer to frequently to diagnose and treat the maladies and injuries that are normal for an active family of six. We also will crosscheck the references with online sources such as WebMD for supplemental or newer information. This has helped us reduce trips to physicians and emergency rooms, stay healthier, and lower our medical bills.

When we approach medical professionals in cases where the do-it-yourself tactic just won’t suffice, most of them are irritated, even reluctant, to treat people who know what’s wrong, understand their options, and have chosen the treatment they need. But those few who are secure in their ego and sincere in their profession have been happy to treat someone who has taken such responsibility for their own care.

Dan Wagner
Chapel Hill, N.C.


Take It With a Grain of Salt

Cyberchondriacs are really a subset of a larger problem. People seem to accept anything they read in cyberspace (e-mail, Web sites, chat rooms) as true without questioning it. This is not a new problem. We’ve trusted other sources in the past (word of mouth, newspapers, TV, cable news networks) only to learn that these sources are sometimes flawed.

I see no problem with providing online tools so that reasonable people can compare their symptoms with known maladies and gain perspective on possible conditions. But they should use common sense and verify their suspicions through legitimate means; in other words, go see a health-care professional and get a qualified opinion. The potential harm of self-diagnosis should not be the impetus for restricting legitimate information sources on the Internet.

Robert M. Pedigo
Pearl City, Hawaii


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