The Effects of Technology in the Workplace

Technology has revolutionized the workplace. From word-processing applications, to powerful computer servers to complex enterprise resource planning applications, technology has made the workplace more interconnected, flexible and decentralized. Technology has made it possible for even a small business to respond rapidly to competitive threats, seek out partners in different regions of the world and establish a global presence.

  1. Interconnectivity

    • Interconnectivity using telecommunications and Internet technology has allowed businesses to communicate with their suppliers, customers and competitors more efficiently and cost effectively. Employees in far flung corners of the world can hold virtual meetings and work collaboratively without having to incur travel costs. According to workplace consultants Jeanne C Meister and Karie Willyerd, connectivity through corporate networks and open social media tools, such as Twitter and Facebook, results in a more engaged, collaborative and productive workplace.

    Flexibility

    • Technology increases corporate flexibility. Businesses can find out and respond rapidly to planned competitor product launches. They do not have to hire employees full-time or build physical office spaces for them. Instead, they can engage contractors who act as virtual employees receiving and executing tasks online. Technology improvements can make processes more efficient and reduces costs, which make companies more nimble in responding to changes in the business environment. Harvard Business School professor Marco Iansiti and others note that technology makes process improvements simpler and business opportunities easier to access. Their research found that companies with higher technology capabilities can grow their businesses more effectively than their competitors.

    Decentralization

    • Technology has decentralized workplace decision-making. The central mainframe server model has been replaced by the distributed architecture model where software applications and data are scattered across business units. Harvard Business School professor Raffaella Sadun told Carmen Noble of Harvard Business School Working Knowledge that enterprise resource planning software, computer-aided design and computer-assisted manufacturing are examples of decentralizing technologies because they allow managers at all levels to make decisions without having to contact their superiors. Sadun believes that trust is the key factor in determining the extent of the decentralization. Without trust, technology can easily be used by employees to constantly seek guidance from their superiors, and by managers to micromanage every aspect of their business operations.

    Considerations: Privacy

    • Technology plays a role in balancing the operational security concerns of employers and privacy concerns of employees. Employers need to monitor email traffic, blog posts and other Internet activity to protect valuable trade secrets from falling into the wrong hands or prevent litigation for what employees might say online. By establishing clear policies and communicating how technology use is being monitored, companies can assure employees that their privacy rights are being protected.

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  • Photo Credit Oli Scarff/Getty Images News/Getty Images

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