It is unthinkable now to imagine the workplace without computers, laptops, email, and the internet. Changes in technology have shaped the modern office, shop, factory, warehouse and so on, in just a few generations. Technology rules our working lives, from controlling inventories to creating presentations and running financial reports. But there is a crossover from the technology we use at work and at home. In fact, technology means that the lines between work and home are becoming increasingly entwined. The notion of the workplace as a permanent 9-5 environment is becoming redundant for many. In a fundamental shift, technology has enabled remote working; we can work from a train or plane. This brings opportunity, giving more flexibility to working lives and greater efficiency as we stay in constant contact. However, this also means that we work harder, with longer hours and an inability to switch off. So, the challenge is to balance the advantages technology brings with today’s working practices.
The power of technology
The rise in cloud-computing, video conferencing and social media make it easier to communicate with colleagues, suppliers, and customers. We are more connected than ever before. Technology enables smaller companies to act like larger companies, as they use data to compete effectively in competitive markets. Organisations can determine clearly what their customers seek, based on buying patterns and information, rather than guesswork. Furthermore, social media enables customers to communicate with businesses directly and in real time.
The workplace is made more efficient and powerful by technology. It can:
>> Improve the sales cycle and training practices, by enabling collaboration between long-distance customers
and remote teams.
>> Provide greater opportunity for both consumers and business people. Being able to shop for anything
from the comfort of the sofa has provided more choice to the consumer but also opened up new markets
>> Enable retailers to provide tailored, personalised buying experiences, using the wealth of information on
our buying habits – more effective for sales and in tune with our preferences.
The future workplace
While technological advances have brought many benefits to the workplace, there is concern that it may also spell disaster. Artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and the Internet of Things have the potential to automate many tasks within blue-collar and white-collar work. As these areas develop, many more tasks could be automated leading to the future loss of many jobs
A 2014 Oxford study found that 47% of jobs could be replaced by automated processes in 20 years. Source: World Economic Forum
However, the truth may not be that simplistic. As new technology emerges so too do new roles to create, maintain and use the technology. So while some roles may disappear new opportunities should also appear. Of the top 10 most in-demand job roles in the UK (2016) just two were technology based, so it will be interesting to monitor this over time.
Embrace technology, stay ahead
Today’s businesses rely on technology, and this reliance is set to grow stronger. Conversely, this has meant that we often work longer hours, being in constant contact with more competition – we have to work harder. But we can’t forget that technology brings greater efficiency and opportunity, and overall brings benefits to our workplace. Companies who embrace technology are the ones that will stay ahead of competitors who don’t have the same abilities. As technology develops at a rapid pace we are seeing new systems that allow better connectivity and communication. Shared screens, video collaboration and messaging apps such as Slack may surpass our reliance on email culture. The businesses that stay ahead will be the ones to succeed now and in the future.