The impact of technology in the workplace and how to manage it better
Over the past few years, as part of the introduction to some of my productivity training programs, I’ve been asking groups this question: “What are the upsides and downsides of the impact of technology in the workplace?”
The responses are hardly surprising, but I believe they go to the heart of the problem that people in organisations are currently experiencing as they grapple to make technology meet its promise of making life easier.
Here are some typical responses:
|Availability of information right at your fingertips at any given time||Too much information to sift through. It can easily become overwhelming|
|Ability to contact people at any time…instantly if necessary||You are always ‘available’ and potentially contactable. It’s hard to switch off|
|Email communication makes it so easy to disseminate information quickly and widely!||It’s becoming increasingly difficult to manage the volume of emails that people get|
|So many ways to interact with people: various social media platforms, instant messaging, email, etc||So many distractions! We tend to multi-task as a result, making it difficult to stay focussed|
|You can work from almost anywhere so long as you can access the Internet. Documents are increasingly being stored in the cloud or on servers rather than locally on devices||You can work from almost anywhere so long as you can access the Internet! Certain regional areas struggle with poor internet access. And if the internet goes down, or technology fails for some reason, the information you need to do your work may not be available|
|Technology is constantly changing! It is continuously adapting and evolving. Getting faster and more efficient||Because technology is constantly changing, it makes it hard to keep up. You constantly have to learn new things|
I’m sure I’ve left out some things, but you get the idea. There are many upsides of course but, quite ironically, almost every upside has a corresponding downside.
So what can we do to emphasise the positives of technology while reducing the effect of the negatives?
The impact of technology in the workplace
I’ve been in the workforce for many years – long enough to see the advent of numerous new technologies including, of course, the internet itself. It’s been fascinating to watch these changes happening around me. One thing that’s very clear is that technological advancements at work are not going to go away, so if you are in the workforce you will continue to face these types of challenges at work. There’s no point pushing against technology in the hope that it will go away.
I want to suggest a few things that I’ve found helpful over the years as I’ve had to navigate the impact of technology in the workplace.
Embrace new technology
Keeping up with technology can be a challenge for many of us as we get older, or for those whose brains don’t seem to be wired for this stuff. But learning new things is good for us (especially as we get older!). It can take time though.
While it would be great to be able to work with modern technology without having to read the manual, spending a bit of time with a new technology will ultimately be worth the effort.
As someone who is definitely in the ‘more mature’ category (OK, I’m old!), I keep challenging myself to embrace new technology. I get that latest phone or try a new app … and then I work on learning how to use it to improve my own productivity and that of my clients. This has helped me keep pace with the modern workforce which has been wonderful in so many ways.
And, by the way, Google is your friend when it comes to learning how to use a new technology. If you’re having trouble working out how to do something with your new phone or the latest version of Microsoft Word, a quick internet search will often give you the answer.
Turn off your email notifications!
This is a no brainer for most of us, but it still surprises me how many people leave their email notifications set to ‘ON’ as the default. You should check emails when you want to check emails, not when you’ve been notified that an email has arrived!
Another way of looking at this is that by leaving email notifications on, you are actually allowing someone else to manage your time rather than yourself. You become reactive, rather than proactive.
Remember, email is a great servant but a poor master! Read a previous post on turning off email notifications…the how and why.
Get control of your social media notifications
In a similar way, you should turn off social media notifications on ALL devices! This can be a little time consuming if, like me, you have multiple devices, but it is definitely worth the effort.
Of course by default many notifications are set to ‘ON’. This forces people to multitask inadvertently, losing focus multiple times a day. That can be very costly. (You can read more about why that is so here in a previous article: ‘The Multitasking Myth‘
Separate your email accounts
This has been a recent learning for me. Because I run my own business, I felt it would be easier to use just one email account and have everything come into that account. I use email ‘rules’ to try and move certain types of email into specific email folders, however I found it too easy to slip into work mode after hours … or be distracted by personal emails during normal working hours. See
I’ve now created three separate email accounts on completely different platforms and I’m finding this a very helpful way of ‘partitioning’ my email use.
My three accounts are:
All work related stuff of course. I’ve been gradually moving personal stuff away from this account to my personal email account as I mentioned earlier.
For specific personal stuff where I need to reply or for important information I need to be aware of.
I use this account for whenever I have to subscribe online to any promotional or shopping site. Dan Murphys, Woolworths, hotel promotional stuff, etc. I’ve found this incredibly useful in decluttering my work email account.
I use my Gmail platform for this since it has a nice feature whereby all my promotional stuff gets filtered. I must confess I hardly look at it, so I may miss out on the odd promotional deal, but I figure I can live with that for now at least.
I’m finding it helpful to use three completely different email platforms that I access these separate accounts in different places – different apps on my phone and at least different tabs on my browser. This reduces the risk of, for instance, accidentally glancing at a work email during the weekend and so getting drawn in to some issue that could easily wait until Monday.
If managing the impact of technology in the workplace is an issue for you, I hope some of these simple suggestions prove helpful.
No doubt there are countless other ways of making technology work for you. (You may like to share your own tricks in the comments section of my blog.)
But for me, mostly it’s about making sure you’re the one in control – not the technology!
Geoff Prior – Lingford Consulting. June 2019
Interested in knowing more? We cover this in our Personal Productivity Training.