Since the technological developments that began in the 1980s, an ever-changing culture has been present in the workforce. In Hakken’s 1993 article, “Computing and Social Change: New Technology and Workplace Transformation, 1980—1990”, computers are highlighted as being essential for increasing levels of productivity. However, are computers and new technology also destroying some of the expected characteristics of individuals?
As computers have infiltrated the work environment, employees are far more likely to communicate via email and from the comfort of their desk and keyboard. Miki Markovich of Demand Media argues that without face-to-face interaction in the workplace, ideas can be misinterpreted and accurately conveying one’s intentions can be difficult.
Markovich expands on the issues surrounding computers and new technology, as she highlights five issues that become prevalent due to the presence of computers.
1. Communication Breakdowns: email has resulted in a lack of writing skills. It has been proven difficult to convey the tone of a message and impossible to interpret messages due to the lack of visual body language.
2. Increased Stress: employees can be contacted by coworkers at any point in the day, creating high levels of stress on certain individuals. The expectations for an immediate response due to advances in technology result in in increased stress levels.
3. Distractions: with various means of technology, it is impossible to perform daily tasks without being distracted by email, text messages, or phone calls. Even technology that doesn’t pertain to the work environment, such as television, computer games, or Internet surfing, can create distractions within the workforce.
4. Disconnectedness: advances in technology and the reliance on computers have created more divided teams and a sense of confusion amongst coworkers. The lack of collaboration as a whole does not foster group development.
5. Health Issues: spending hours sitting in front of a computer screen can damage eyesight and lead to long-term problems such as obesity or musculoskeletal issues.
Prior to today’s reliance on computers, meetings were seen to be more productive and more team-oriented. Does technology improve the degree of communication amongst coworkers; or only provide multiple avenues for less than ideal discussion? As workers are far more disconnected without face-to-face interaction, it is often impossible to relay emotions that can be told through body language and gestures. Computers are also more likely to increase workloads among employees, as new technology provides ways to communicate on the road and at home.
Although some of these concerns provide more opportunities to communicate, an important question can be generated: What is more productive? Lacking clarity on certain issues due to communicating frequently via technology or communicating face-to-face less often, yet comprehending the task and goal at hand?