How is technology changing the workplace?

Technology has changed the world of work to an extent that would have been unimaginable even 30 years ago. Change is triggered by circumstances, whether that’s something as critical as a world event or simply the need to outperform your competitors.

This pandemic (COVID-19) has forced us to use technology in a different way and it’s fast become the norm to use the internet to communicate. It gives us that essential sense of togetherness so we don’t feel so isolated.

Over the past few decades we have seen the introduction of technology into our workplace increase gradually. Some met these changes with open arms and others with fear or mistrust. As technology advances, so do our capabilities, the potential is endless. Nowadays, we are bombarded with a stream of the latest technical tools that will change our working life for the better.

Gone are the simple days of typewriters and telephones. Today, you must have an email address, WhatsApp, Telegram, Messenger and be available 24/7.

Whatever sector you work in, this gradual change has allowed us to adapt our communication. E-communication has become a necessity, globally. However, it’s recently had to move up several gears – very quickly.

As the lockdown was announced, companies had to move fast to equip their staff to work remotely, ensuring all their data was available to the right people, with the right security overnight. Companies and individuals have had to be creative in how they continue to work, when in remote locations.

Until today, you may have thought you couldn’t work without being in an office alongside your colleagues, but the situation has tested that assumption to its limits.

As you read this, you have emails coming in. Perhaps it’s your boss or a colleague sending out the daily update that would previously have been passed on during the daily meeting, face-to-face.

What new skills have you learned these past few weeks? Perhaps how to use Teams, Zoom or Google Meet to communicate?

A record number of people are currently working from home, not just in the UK but across the globe. The ONS’ recently published report ‘Coronavirus and homeworking in the UK’ suggests that only 5% of workers worked from home in 2019. We can assume the figures today are much higher.

The big questions – that may change the world of work forever – are:

  • Is productivity better?
  • How about time management?
  • What about the quality of the work performed?

In a survey conducted by Airtasker, it was found that those who worked remotely took shorter breaks and worked more days annually. Surely this is better for productivity?

The individual

The current climate has forced companies to allow their staff to work from home as the only way to keep some businesses afloat. As a result people experience by working flexible hours and save time commuting to and from work.

In turn, their internet must be reliable and they must have all the electronic equipment required. However, finding a quiet room to work and ensuring key meetings aren’t disrupted by a small child demanding attention can be challenging. In addition, there’s the need to get comfortable with a communication platform and know-how to share documents or screens to help others on the call to get all of the message.

The biggest challenge of all is that those less confident with technology could be left behind and feel disenfranchised or alienated.

The company

Pre-pandemic, most companies were reluctant to allow their staff to work from home. They were concerned about productivity and how staff would collaborate on projects. While there have been platforms to share files and collaborate digitally, there were concerns that the value of bouncing ideas face-to-face would result in lower quality outcomes.

What about the positive office atmosphere ‘required’ to keep staff focused and productive? It’s this environment that companies have now ‘let-go’ of. Deadlines are still set and individuals are still delivering results.

The outcomes of this experience will guide companies to look at a very different way of working becoming the norm.

So how does this all impact the future?

Now that it’s been proven that we can collaborate and share ideas digitally, that we can be a team whilst sitting in our individual homes: will we all become a little too comfortable with the idea of working from home?

For the individual, flexible hours and not commuting during rush hour is a plus.

Assuming you can do your job from home, you must have the correct skills and equipment available to complete all tasks. Providing you can meet deadlines, attend meetings digitally and communicate efficiently why wouldn’t you want to continue working from home?

For companies there is a saving in rent and office bills.

As an employer – will future recruitment include a skill check on candidates’ familiarity with online platforms and understanding how to use online collaboration platforms and work in digital teams? Will companies need to invest time and effort training staff on these platforms and offer a more flexible way for employees to manage their time?

The one thing that is for sure – technology will continue to evolve and offer a more flexible and creative way to work.