The rapid advance of technology has had a seismic impact on the ways companies do business—probably the equivalent of a 9.0 on the Richter scale. Just consider the impact of Wi-Fi, smartphones, tablets, laptops, and social media, and the ways they have not only dramatically changed business operations but also business culture.
It’s an issue that can’t be ignored because technological capabilities will continue to rapidly expand, way beyond those of today and in ways that most of us can’t even begin to imagine. As I outline in my book Culture Spark: 5 Steps to Ignite and Sustain Organizational Growth:
So, what’s the downside of this hyper-connected techno world? For one thing, a 2011 Pew Research Center survey suggests that employees between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four receive about thirty text messages every day . . . while at work. We know how those pinging alerts are irresistible, but apart from the time taken to read and respond to them, the distraction from a work project can lead to errors, even though a ban on texting can make employees feel suffocated, controlled, and resentful.
The authors of a Deloitte Insights article provided another reason why the constant use of smart phones may not be such a good thing: “With everyone hyper-connected, the reality may be that employees have few opportunities to get away from their devices and spend time thinking and solving problems.”
Another downside is that the ubiquity of technology propagates an “always on” work ethic where employers can require employees to answer emails or texts and perform tasks outside of office hours. Employees are either expected to be connected 24/7 or take it upon themselves to be wired-in all the time. This risks employee burnout and disillusionment, especially among millennials, who, in particular, seek a healthy work-life balance.
What’s an employer to do? Is it a matter of accepting that this is just the way it is, or should we try and implement some kind of phone restrictions? Should we insist that employees have designated downtime when they can disconnect and be free of work concerns? Perhaps issue guidelines on sending emails? Do all those people really need to be cc’d? One trend we see with our clients is no-email Fridays.
We need to be masters of technology and not slaves to technology. Technology is nothing more than a tool. It’s how you use that tool that matters. It can be a force for good or bad. It’s up to you. More importantly, know how you will use technology. A mastery of it is essential, especially as millennials and generation after become the majority.