Productivity hindered due to Tech Dependence

The advent of the smartphone has dramatically altered how we communicate, navigate, work and entertain ourselves. While the advantages of this new technology are clear, constant use may also bring negative consequences, such as a loss of productivity due to interruptions in work life. A link between smartphone overuse and loss of productivity has often been hypothesised, but empirical evidence on this question is scarce.

Smartphone addiction was also related to a greater amount of leisure time spent on the smartphone and was strongly related to a negative impact of smartphone use on daily non-work related activities. The data with relevance supports the idea that tendencies towards smartphone addiction and overt checking of the smartphone could result in less productivity both in the workplace and at home.

From the time we wake up to the sound of an alarm clock to answering messages on the phone through the day, we’re hooked to electronic gadgets. Whether we’re working on the computer at the work desk or worrying about cyber attacks and phishing while browsing the Internet, technology has become an integral part of our work and personal lives.

No matter what the area of work, technology has entered all processes and functions across the workplace. Almost all companies, across industries, have embraced technology. They aspire to consistently improve the technological landscape of their organisation. However, few organisations are doing it right. Technology has a number of negative effects on the individual and on work, in general.

Constant notifications, multiple web pages open on the desktop, and emails flowing in every hour — these are just a few of the many distractions caused by technology. Distraction is one of the most harmful impacts of technology at the workplace. The result? People compensating for interruptions by working faster, leading to stress, frustration and pressure. All of this leads to poor productivity. Technology like smartphones distract us from achieving a state of flow at work — a state in which we are fully absorbed in an activity while being productive. Long-term increased distractions lead to chemical imbalance in the brain, which results into fatigue and anxiety.

The need to constantly look at ones phone, to continuously check emails and respond to every beep or ring has lead to addiction to gadgets. People with gadget addiction have higher levels of GABA (gamma amino butyric acid) — a chemical that slows down signals in the brain. This chemical is linked to vision, motor control, and various other brain functions.

Technology, AI and machine learning are driving employees to upgrade skills and learn new skills. For eg, According to the World Economic Forum, there will be a significant rise in the need for soft skills by 2020. Non-technical capabilities such as problem-solving, cognitive abilities, and social skills will be in demand, by a staggering 36% more.

THE transformative impact of technology on the modern workplace is plain to see. Face-to-face meetings have often given way to video conferences, mailrooms to email inboxes, and typewriters and carbon paper to word processors. Technology has also allowed a substantial portion of work — and the workforce — to move beyond the confines of a traditional office. It is common for digitally connected professionals to perform some of their work in cafés or shops, at home, even lying by the pool while on “vacation.”

Of particular concern are the engaging — some fear addictive — aspects of digital technologies, which can sap us of truly finite resources: our time and attention. While companies may benefit from tech-enabled increased productivity in the short term, the blurring of the line between work and life follows a law of diminishing returns. As recent Deloitte research suggests, the value derived from the always-on employee can be undermined by such negative factors as increased cognitive load and diminished employee performance and well-being.

In short, digital and mobile technologies give — but they also take away. It falls on talent and technology leaders to weigh the efficiencies enabled by always-connected employees against increased demands on scarce time and attention, and longer-term harm to worker productivity, performance, and well-being. Getting the most from technology and people isn’t about simply demanding restraint. It’s about designing digital technologies that facilitate the cultivation of healthy habits of technology use, not addictive behaviour. And it’s possible for leaders of organisations to play an active role in designing workplaces that encourage the adoption of healthy technology habits.

Technology may have physically freed us from our desks, but it has also eliminated natural breaks which would ordinarily take place during the workday. And recent research suggests that this effect is not restricted to the workday. According to the American Psychological Association, 53 percent of Americans work over the weekend, 52 percent work outside designated work hours, and 54 percent work even when sick. Without tangible interventions, there’s little reason to think this behaviour will change anytime soon.

It often seems that for technology designers, the main objective has been to maximise productivity and profitability, forgoing all other concerns. Yet ignoring the end user’s well-being means these products have become devoid of features to help mitigate the negative outcomes of technology. This has resulted in products being designed to capture some of the scarcest commodities we have: our time and attention.

Some of these design decisions occur unintentionally, a byproduct of an endless pursuit to create the most efficient product. Other designs are products of designers creating features to maximise the likelihood that employees will become hooked. Both unintentional and intentional design can result in a similar outcome: addicted users.

Fortunately, both can be overcome when more attention is paid to the problem, and interventions — both technological and environmental — are put in place. Even more heartening is our belief that as users become more educated and more accustomed to being less beholden to technology, they will willingly employ these countermeasures themselves to promote better usage and well-being.

Regardless of the specific policy or choice architecture intervention, the overarching aim is to rewire the workplace in ways that improve the employee-technology relationship. To be successful, there must be a push from the top down: It is one thing to create a new policy, but quite another for an organisation’s leaders to openly display their commitment to it, and communicate its resulting benefits.

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