Tech’s age of innocence is over – at work, too

With several articles weekly addressing the drawbacks of digital technologies, it seems tech’s age of innocence is over. Recent writings address the impact on children as well as adults. Even those who founded today’s tech giants are lamenting their creations. Articles focus on the toll excessive tech use can take on our personal lives and our relationships with each other. But what about business?

In theory, if tech means individuals are ‘always on’ for work, businesses could be getting more out of their employees. The truth is, of course, completely different. Employees who are tired, stressed out and don’t get enough human interaction aren’t at their best at work, either.

But the pressure on employees to be ‘always-on’ is not the only aspect where businesses can fall short in their management of digital. Companies are often not managing digital well – often due to simple thoughtlessness. Investment is made in digital tools to make business more efficient. Teams and individuals get used to reaching for these digital tools as the first and often only port of call. It seems like the easy route – but as anyone who has ended up in a lenghty IM exchange and email trail trying to address a minor issue recognises: it would have been far quicker and more efficient to have a conversation. Craig Hill explored this in-depth in a recent Thrive with Digital blog

This type of unplanned company cultural behaviours put limits on good, productive business. They’re the reason why Thrive with Digital has created a change-programme to help get businesses back on a better, more productive, path. 

The specific digital-use-issues affecting any business are as individual as those hindering specific personal lives. When bringing up this topic, some claim that people ‘checking personal social media’ at work is the main productivity obstacle – but if a business expects employees to work in their free time, some trade-offs are inevitable. Blaming personal digital use at work not only seems petty – it doesn’t even begin to address the problem. 

From a human wellbeing point of view, the issue is that checking Facebook at work is not the restful break many need. It would be far better to have a chat or simply stare out the window than adding another screen experience to a day already busy with a barrage of digital input. 

The myth of efficient multitasking, which we addressed recently, is a big culprit, which only serves to increase stress and tiredness. We hear that organisations are also beginning to notice the problems created by a lack of good, face-to-face communication. It’s high time to take a fresh look at how we use digital in business – it can play an important part of the solution for a great, productive business, but it’s never the full answer. 

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