Technology in the workplace: Productive Aid or Distraction?
Not too long ago, technology use in most offices was limited to landline telephones, computers with limited memory, speed and processing power, restricted access to the internet, fax machines and printers. However, in today’s dynamic, technology-driven environment, technology use in the workplace has been transformed by, among other things, powerful computers with enhanced processing and storage capabilities; high speed broadband, social media, smart devices and messaging apps. These have allowed people to simplify tasks, increase efficiency and boost productivity.
For example, shared services such as Google Drive and Dropbox allow workers to collaborate more easily, even when they are in different locations; mobile phones, instant messaging apps and email facilitate more efficient and effective communication between and among workers, and social networks enable workers/businesses to directly connect with customers, local and foreign.
On the other hand, these Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs), if not managed properly, can become distractions, diverting a worker’s time and attention from producing work, resulting in a loss of productivity. From scrolling through news feeds and sending instant messages, to watching videos on YouTube and sharing selfies, workers may be spending more time playing with these ICTs rather than working with them.
Several studies have looked into this notion, most recently the “Tech @ Work Survey” prepared by The Hartford. In this May, 2016 study, which interviewed 1,200 Americans, 19 percent of the respondents agreed that social media, in particular, was distracting. Mobile devices (12 percent), messaging apps (9 percent) and the internet in general (5 percent), were also blamed for decrease in productivity while at work.
Another study, which was conducted in 2014 by Ricoh Americas Corp., an IT services and technology company, showed that as many as 35 percent of workers posted on social media during work time. It also found that 76 percent checked personal emails, while 67 percent sent personal texts while on the job.
While similar research data is not readily available for the Jamaican workplace, these findings might still be cause for concern for the nation, especially when one considers that more and more Jamaicans are accessing smart devices, engaging via social media, and using messaging apps.
Ways to Manage Tech Use
Given this situation, the key question is, how does one manage technological distractions while at work? Well first of all, if you’ve ever been guilty of getting caught up with social media and other tech distractions during work time, you’re not alone. However, if you want to ensure it doesn’t affect your work output, here are a few tips:
There are a number of apps that can be installed on both your mobile and desktop devices, which can block your access to websites and other apps that may tempt you during work time, but still allow you to use technology for work purposes. Here are six you can consider using:
- Freedom (for Windows, Mac, iOS mobile devices)
- Self-Control (for Mac users)
- Cold Turkey (for Windows PC users)
- LeechBlock (for Firefox Browser users)
- RescueTime (for Windows, Mac, Android and Linux users, also provides reports)
- Focus Lock (for Android users)
Using these apps, you can block access for a specified time or all day if you prefer, leaving you with access to just the tools and sites you need thereby helping you focus on getting actual work done.
Keep Focused on Your Goals
Having clear work goals and an accompanying schedule can help you to manage your time more efficiently, keep you focused on the job at hand and ultimately, may negate the need to block any site or app. For example, if your goal is to be promoted within a certain period of time or qualify for an incentive, plan your day around these goals to increase the likelihood that you will make the most productive use of your time. Each time you feel the urge to check notifications or to tweet, or post something non-work related, ask yourself, does this post bring me closer to my objective, how does this advance my goals?
While too much socialization among co-workers can be a distraction in itself, taking time out to engage others, every once in a while, can reduce the need to go on social media sites, watch YouTube videos or send needless text messages.
As ICTs continue to evolve and become more embedded in the workplace, the lines between personal time and professional time will become even more blurred. However, by implementing strategies to manage technology use, you can still be productive while on the job.