Two weeks ago the subject of my blog was ‘When Technology in the Workplace Becomes the Time-wasting Virus of Meetings’. I was not surprised by the attention it received because it’s something that so many of us have experienced. I was surprised by the responses it generated by some who indicated that the impact on meetings was only the tip of the iceberg.
What some were fast to point out is that as wondrous as all of the technology is in terms of what it allows us to do and accomplish at a much greater rate of speed, we have given up something that is still seen as a very important aspect of organizational and company success. It’s called communication and connection. Obviously I needed to do some research that would give merit to this train of thought … or not. I did and I share with you what I learned … something that may be no surprise to you.
First, I will point to some of the positives that the ever-evolving creation of new, better and faster tech has brought to our work and lives:
- The increased speed related to communication
- The ability to hold ‘virtual’ meetings making for efficient use of time
- Faster and easier access to needed information
- Increased individual comfort given our ability to conduct most all business sitting at our desk
- The mobility we gained given the ability to carry our ‘desks’ with us wherever we go and at all times day and night.
- A shrinking of the world allowing people to be ‘together’ from anywhere at just about any time.
- Efficiencies have been redefined.
- Working ‘smart’ has taken on expanded meanings.
- Accomplishing more in the course of a day is a benefit … at least by the heads of the organization, division or department.
- The accessibility to all has grown well outside the boundaries of time in the office.
- Reduced social interaction
If there is no longer the need to communicate in a face to face manner there is less opportunity to learn and further courtesies such as listening, tactful presentation and basic politeness. It’s hard to imagine that we will arrive at a place wherein business will not benefit from these skills.
- Addiction to our tech tools
The apparent inability of so many of us to engage with another in a business or personal environment without reaching for and/or responding to some text, call or email for any extended period of time has and does impact the nature of relationships.
- The ‘isolationism’ that accompanies the addiction to technology
To the extent that interaction with others adds potential depth and value to whatever we are working to do, this has become significantly diminished. Some speak of the increased sense of loneliness and stress … even while surrounded by others.
- The impacted ability to concentrate and remain focused where needed
We feel the buzz when an email arrives, the ping with a new text message or the ring when we are receiving an incoming call. Regardless of what it is, in each case we feel compelled to be responsive … now. Whereas the form of communication is faster and even more efficient, getting our heads refocused on what we had been doing before we allowed the interruption is wasted time.
- Hello speed … goodbye valuable non-verbal communication
Being able to emphasize our communication using various facial expressions and body language is gone … going in both directions. What this has allowed is a misinterpretation of the message delivered because of what we no longer have access to.
- The ability to hide behind a protective wall of ‘say anything in any way’
If I can express myself in any manner without a concern or sensitivity to how I say something, a sense of decorum and acceptable expression is out the window. People who experience this speak of the very negative impact it has on the very relationships needed to be successful in the work being done with others.
- The elimination of work time-frames thus allowing the workday to be 24/7
The idea of work-life balance becomes an awareness of the past. Feeling the pressure to always be available as a requirement of the job impacts the time and focus we feel free to devote to other areas of our lives.
From the standpoint of business these attributes seem to be positives.
So far, so good. And it would be good until individuals began experiencing the adverse aspects of today’s technologically advanced and advancing work methods. Here are some of the ways people are beginning to feel the costs and pitfalls of living and working in such a world:
An article in the Deloitte Insights expressed it this way. “There is no question that digital and mobile technologies give … and they also take away. Getting the most from technology and people isn’t about simply demanding restraint. It’s about designing digital technologies that facilitate the cultivation of healthy habits of technology use, not addictive behavior. And it’s possible for leaders of organizations to play an active role in designing workplaces that encourage the adoption of healthy technology habits.
Technology may have physically freed us from our desks, but it has also eliminated natural breaks which would ordinarily take place during the workday. A research conducted by the American Psychological Association revealed that 53 percent of Americans work over the weekend, 52 percent work outside designated work hours, and 54 percent work even when sick. Flextime, typically viewed as a benefit of technology providing greater freedom, actually leads to more work hours. Without tangible interventions, there’s little reason to think this behavior will change anytime soon.”
Along with all of the positive and wondrous benefits that advancing technology has delivered have come varied impacts on its’ users that are revealing negative consequences. As organizations become more aware of this and as the users begin to
realize the negatives infiltrating other areas of their lives, controls are being put in place designed to bring a realistic and beneficial balance back to those who find themselves on ‘the other side’ and want to return to a life that provides time and opportunity for all of its’ aspects. Perhaps it’s time to take stock of your work environment and how it has changed you in this regard. It’s only a guess and yet raising the issue will probably be greeted with applause from others having the same concerning experience.
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