How tech has transformed the workplace

Digital tools and solutions have have transformed communication, collaboration– even health & safety– in business.
19 July 2019

Workplace technology has transformed our businesses. Source: Shutterstock

In a digital world full of distractions, publishers are often guilty of focusing on bad news and reporting worst-case scenarios as fact. Why? Unfortunately, it’s much more likely to attract the attention of a casual reader’s eye than a more positive news story.

Maybe this is why our newsfeeds are littered with scary reports and crystal ball gazing. Robots are coming to take our jobs as we inevitably head full speed towards a hi-tech dystopian future. That’s the current narrative which fools many into nostalgically looking back to simpler times when life was so much easier. 

Sure, technology has transformed the workplace, and keeping up with the speed of exponential change can be exhausting. But the reality is that it will never move this slow again. Before you become tempted to look back at the good days, maybe we should accept that much of our employment history isn’t as positive as we might remember.

Productivity and collaboration in the workplace 

One of the biggest reasons that business leaders are attracted to technology is that it can increase efficiency while also decreasing costs. Anyone that was working in the eighties and nineties would not want to return to pen, paper, calculators and regular trips to the bank.

It’s hard to imagine that communication in our former analog world only consisted of phone calls and face-to-face meetings. Sending a letter might sound quaint, but it was hardly a productive use of our time and cannot compete with collaborating with a member of the global community 10,000 miles away in real-time.

Collaboration efforts used to be restricted to a shared space. The arrival of digital tools such as Google Docs and Slack tore down geographical barriers and changed everything. We often take for granted how employees can now communicate and work cohesively regardless of their physical location.

According to McKinsey, innovative collaboration techniques and networking tools improve productivity by as much as 20 to 30 percent for global software development teams. Technology is playing a crucial role in encouraging new ideas to flourish anytime, anywhere, and on any device– it’s easy to forget, just how far we have come in a relatively short space of time.

A safer and happier place to work

Technology has also transformed health and safety in the workplace too.

Traditionally, workplaces took the reactive approach of documenting incidents after they had occurred. Now, we are much more proactive in reporting near misses that prevent future accidents from happening. The smartphone in our pocket can be used to provide photographic and video evidence of any potential danger.

Check-in technology also enables businesses to monitor employees and track of who is and isn’t in onsite or accounted for. Digital signage, drones, and 3D visualizations also help manage and access dangerous areas or situations to ensure everyone is kept safe from harm. But it’s not just about ensuring that everyone is physically safe in the workplace.

Remember the days where the loudest white male voices in the room dictated every action while everyone else nervously nodded in agreement? In a digital age, businesses have been forced to be as diverse as the audience that they serve or face the consequences.

The detrimental effects of teams lacking in diversity of thought and inclusion are well documented.

But there is still much room for improvement. However, technology is providing a variety of communication methods that are enabling both introverts and extroverts to express their different opinions and make their voice heard.  The days where strong personalities dominate conversations in meeting rooms are disappearing.

In the old world, you had to sit at the same desk every day of the week, and an improved work-life balance felt like just a dream. Technology paved the way for remote working and introduced greater flexibility into our lives. Tasks can be assigned to us while we are on the move, and a catchup video call is just a swipe away.

New teams that celebrate a diversity of thought in a flexible, inclusive, and safe working environment are not only more productive but happier too. Can you say that about life back in the nineties?

Technology will continue to improve the workplace

We are now surrounded by digital tools and technology to make our lives easier.

As emerging technologies such as 5G, AI, machine learning, and IoT begin to converge, low-level tasks will quickly become automated. The key to thriving in an age of automation will be how we adapt to change and hone the most basic of skills, being human.

Although we have email and a variety of chat platforms at our disposal, chatting face-to-face will become more critical than ever. The ability to display empathy, curiosity, and emotional intelligence provides a human touch that technology cannot compete with. Thriving in a digital world also requires critical thinking, creativity, negotiation skills, and cognitive flexibility. 

It’s time to retire the scary headlines and look towards a much more hopeful future. Human workers and machines will inevitably work together, and each will complement the other’s efforts. Those that adapt and adopt a new mindset will work alongside a digital colleague rather than compete against one.