Here’s a common claim tech disrupters should not ignore: technology has hurt people more than help them. Interactions that used to include eye contact and interactions are now often filtered through screens or automatic machines. Customer service is shifting to self-checkouts and online purchases. Car wrecks from distracted driving have skyrocketed. Suspicion of technological misuse abounds from unseemly suggestions about the future of love in the age of passable sex-bots to apocalyptic visions of a world ruined by AI.
Pop culture remains our best measure of unmeasurable feelings, and there we can find the explosive popularity of dreary robotic worlds of the future from Terminator to the latest Black Mirror episodes.
Yet against this dark landscape, true miracles have been performed thanks to technology. Disaster response and recovery are faster than ever. Instantaneous worldwide collaboration and communication is a daily occurrence.
One last mind-boggling fact that can’t be overstated: ordinary people have fingertip access to the world’s accumulated knowledge.
Technological and digital growth has set us at the forked path between positive and negative visions of the future. Here are contributing factors to that dynamic.
A Bad First Impression With Early Integration
Employees did not have a good first experience with new technology. Going back to the 1800s, the addition of work clocks was resented because while it let companies be more accurate with hours and payment, it also served as a way to penalize late arrival, cutting corners, or undocumented breaks.
To be fair to employers, better clock-in tech reduced practices like employees clocking in for each other, which was a big problem.
Shifting to present day, employees can now be monitored from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with digital methods, a phenomenon that fits “Big Brother” fears like a glove. On the backend, employee numbers, not names, organize payroll systems. This practice gives employees further fuel for the common suspicion that they were of little importance to higher-ups.
This surveillance culture has carried into the contemporary digital world. E-mail and computer use can easily be monitored by employers. Even if the intentions began as consistency and security, employees often experience it as a tool for spying on, and eliminating employees who make a false move.
While these tools have increased efficiency and reduced inappropriate behavior, the origins of employee distrust and resistance to change are understandable, forgivable, and clear.
How High-Tech Workplaces Can Serve People Better
The truth is, our greater connectivity and democratization of information are only the beginnings of what’s possible. New technology has made people more productive and innovative, and even far safer at work. Ideas can be captured and shared faster than ever.
In fact, some of these developments let people bring their own devices to work, which is one of the fastest ways to make a new employee feel comfortable and eliminates hours of training.
It even turns out that the practice of allowing employees to engage in personal social media activity relieves workday stress, and even improves results for businesses. For example, the Pew Research Center reported that 78% of people solve work-related challenges with resources from personal social media. This poses a possibility: perhaps employers should not fight social media use because it is a losing battle. More research discovered that 77% of people use personal social media at work regardless of company policy.
It may well be better to leverage benefits rather than fight the future. Not only that, it’s even possible to integrate automatic alerts to let employees know when they have spent too much time away from work-related tasks, thus preventing the need for intervention from a boss.
People in organizations are building connections to their colleagues with platforms like Yammer and Jive just like they do with friends and family on social media. This connects to greater workplace retention and satisfaction.
For example, Rusty and Sam Sailors, who are, respectively, the CEO and President of Secure Smart Office see technology as a way of “improving 1/3 of your day” which is a reference to the average amount of time spent at work. They believe tech can draw people closer together, make them feel cared for, and increase engagement and productivity.
The Sailors’ view is an example of a transformational shift in focus on humanity over employment. They see the benefits of making their company actually enjoyable to work for. They focus on automatically controlling everything from air quality to the office environment, all geared towards improved focus and energy levels. AI is used to eliminate tedious tasks and keep scheduling and calendars on track.
AI can fine-tune spaces to fit people, from adjusting window shading to desk height and temperature synched with the arrival of new employees at different times. In fact, even little details like personal photos appearing on desktops can be included.
One final positive dimension is that all of these adjustments can be integrated with functions that calculate maximum efficiency for minimum environmental impact. This doesn’t just help the Earth, it cuts down on utility bills. It has been recorded that smart lighting can cut back on electricity bills by up to 80%.
Ultimately, the future of workplaces is almost certainly going to be a combination of these positive and toxic elements of high-tech work environments. The difference will come down to company culture, with high-talent individuals having their pick of positive places, and employers evolving in order to attract the people they want.