Technology & The Way We Work
Has technology changed the way we work? Take a quick look around your office, shop, warehouse, even a building site. What you’ll see somewhere is a computer, maybe hundreds of them. For most of us, they rule our working lives. It might not be directly, we might not spend all day working on them, but they tell us what we need, control inventories, the speed jobs should be done, where – and if - we’ll be working tomorrow.
In other words, technology now rules our work lives. We assemble documents and reports on computers, use them for Powerpoint presentations, take laptops on the road so we can have access to information, and most of our business communications are by e-mail – traditional letter writing has become a thing of the past in business.
The Difference Computers Have Made To The WorkplaceWithout any doubt, computers have created a business revolution. Where we once had rooms crammed with handwritten files and typed reports, all sorted daily by filing clerks, now everything is on a hard drive somewhere, readily accessible with an easy search (or so we hope). They’ve made everything in the workplace, from files to communication to sales, more efficient and streamlined.
We expect answers in minutes now, not days or weeks, even if the question is being asked of another part of the globe. We can predict business trends accurately, do business with lower costs and improve the bottom line – all thanks to the computer.
Thank to mobile technology, whether it’s laptops, wireless broadband or even mobile broadband, we can do business almost anywhere. Sit in any wireless hotspot and you’ll see people hard at work on their laptops.
These days business is on a global level, more so than ever before, and it couldn’t exist without computers letting people communicate around the world. We rely on them absolutely – which is why IT professionals – a job category that didn’t even really exist until a few years ago – make such good money. If a server goes down, or there’s a virus, we panic until it’s fixed.
A generation ago we could have imagined doing business on the scale we do today. Even small businesses are connected to major wholesalers, they use computerised cash registers and can keep easy track of inventory on machines. Supermarket chains can run in a streamlined fashion and distribute product easily thanks to computerised inventory control.
But computers and broadband connections have also brought one other revolution - telecommuting. They allow of to work from home, giving a flexibility to working lives that didn't exist before. If your child is ill, for instance, or there's work you can do that doesn't require your presence in the office, telecommuting from home has become more commonplace. Some businesses actively encourage it, at least one day a week. It helps in several ways, not least keeping cars off the road and allowing employees to be more productive. Without computers it couldn't have happened.
It’s reached the point that sometimes it’s hard to believe we were able to conduct business before computer use became widespread. But it’s not the only technology to affect the workplace, and its effects aren’t always as good as one might think.
Other Technology In The WorkplaceThe workplace has become a fluid idea. We can work on the train, or on a plane. Mobile phones mean we’re constantly in touch – and so we’re constantly available. Smartphones and PDAs can mean an office in your pocket.
We rely on technology for business. But in return for that, although it’s supposed to make work more efficient, we work harder than ever, and put in longer hours. Greater efficiency means shorter deadlines and more competition. To be the best, we have to put in a lot more.
In a lot of ways, technology, rather than freeing us at work, has made us slaves to our machines. That’s a paradox, but true – imagine business trying to run these days without technology! But we’ve long since passed the point of no return. What the future holds remains to be seen; however, the likelihood is for more stress and even longer hours for us all.