There are several new research studies about the topic of technology and its impact on the social well-being of users inside office environments. Proponents of digitizing offices cite statistics demonstrating that increased use of technology raises individual productivity, reduces labor costs, and generally creates a flexible working environment (home office,...
There are several new research studies about the topic of technology and its impact on the social well-being of users inside office environments. Proponents of digitizing offices cite statistics demonstrating that increased use of technology raises individual productivity, reduces labor costs, and generally creates a flexible working environment (home office, by phone when traveling, etc.). From the organization's standpoint, these are all favorable attributes and justification for increasingly relying on enhanced technology to manage day-to-day functions. The question remaining unanswered is Does technology enhance the social environment of the organization positively?
Technology promised to relieve humans of the drudgery of repetitive work and free humans to pursue meaningful creative work. Similar to the promises made in the Industrial Revolution, mechanization, standardization, and technology promised to remove humans from work that is too hazardous, repetitious (think assembly lines), and mind-numbing (think call centers). The second promise of technology is to open doors to creativity, diversity, and communication between workers conceivably located in different parts of the world. By most measures, these promises are fulfilled daily as more factory production moves to robotics and as technology allows for swift communication between people. Does the question of the social impact of the digital revolution on individuals remain?
Researchers are just beginning to find that the socio-technological impacts of the digital revolution are not so different from the social implications from the Industrial Revolution. For example, most research on the subject demonstrates that there is a high level of stress and anxiety from workers believing their jobs are in jeopardy of being replaced by technology. There are far fewer jobs in manufacturing as robotics and other forms of technology replace humans. Even in highly skilled jobs, technology has the capability to replace workers. (An excellent source for this is Thomas Friedman's book, The World is Flat.) The constant strain of thinking you may be replaced at a moment's notice harms the emotional well-being of humans.
Within the working community, while no one denies that communication is more accessible, that does not necessarily mean that it is more humane, creative, better, or fosters collaboration. Think about the majority of e-mails, texts, or other office communication you receive during the day as it relates to your occupation. It is probably mundane, repetitious, and lacking in human appeal. Whereas in early times an employee might form friendships with colleagues and the families of workers might bond at social events, the modern office's technology limits face-to-face human contact. Personal relationships with coworkers with everyday social interactions create a collaborative space.
Research demonstrates that humans are most productive, have a greater sense of self-worth, and are happiest when their workplace is vibrant with personal interaction. Organizations that fail to recognize the socio-technological impacts on their workforce will not maintain a competitive edge in the future.