Technology has been changing the workplace since the 18th century with the advent of the industrial revolution. Today, it is the digital revolution that is driving change and efficiency both at home and in the workplace. And change is occurring at a much faster rate than in the past. How are technology changes in the workplace affecting your most important asset, your employees?
Technology in the workplace can bring many benefits starting with the ability for instant communication with co-workers, customers, and suppliers. Software and applications such as SMS messaging, texting, email, and instant messaging all bring significant benefits to the office by not having to wait hours or days for answers and information. It ultimately saves time and makes employees and processes much more efficient. Another positive impact is video conferencing which has made the workplace a global environment allowing greater flexibility for employers and employees alike. Mobile technology has contributed to the global dynamic, enabling employees in the field to stay in touch not only by phone but also by utilizing the myriad of applications that share information between the field and the home base. Technology has brought many beneficial changes that are positive for both employers and employees.
Are there truly any bad aspects to improved technology? You bet. Reliance on text, email and instant messaging to correspond with others requires better than average writing (and, more importantly communication) skills, which many people are lacking. Relying 100% on condensed written communication can lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretation due to lack of visual cues such as body language and facial expressions, or audio cues such as tone of voice. Writing skills are very important to minimize the occurrence of these issues.
Lower productivity is another offshoot of today’s technology. With incoming texts, instant messages, email pop up notifications, employees are constantly being interrupted throughout the day with “urgent” messages that “require” instant responses. Social media also contributes to the disruptions due to the sheer volume of incoming information. In an age of constant communication, some employees struggle with prioritizing interruptions and lower productivity is the result.
Finally, with employees of all demographics from Baby Boomers to Millennials, there will be those who are resistant to change and will struggle with the constant transformation of the workplace working alongside those who thrive on change. How can you minimize the negative impacts? Managing expectations of both employee and employer can minimize the effects of the “bad” aspects of technology in the workplace.
You may be thinking, “What can possibly be ugly about technology that improves efficiency, saves time and money?” Employee perceptions and stress is at an all-time high. With the ability to log on from home, a company provided cell phones and email, instant messaging and text pinging 24 hours a day, employees feel pressure to be available 24/7. The “electronic leash” is a reality for many employees whether or not the employer expects 24/7 availability. With the global environment, we are in today, many employers actually do expect employees to respond most any time of the night or day.
Good, bad and ugly! That can be a little intimidating to employers and employees. With all of the efficiencies enabled by new technology, it leaves time to think about employee satisfaction. As Sir Richard Branson says, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”
About the Author
Siobhan Finders is the senior product manager for MAPADOC, a tightly integrated EDI solution for Sage 100, Sage 500 and Sage X3. Her background in accounting and ERP systems help her align a seamless product experience for MAPADOC’s users – most of whom have very unique businesses!
Article reprinted from the Spring 2017 issue of Bellwether.
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