Technology and your working day

Thanks to remote working technology has become an even bigger part of our working lives but does it make us more productive? Recent articles in the press about the right to disconnect and bringing in a four-day week do not seem to support this, especially from the employee side anyway.

Productivity Increase
I wonder if they had this discussion 250 years ago when machines took over many of the manual jobs in the industrial world? Or is it just that the pace of technology now is outstripping our capacity to deal with it? According to research 7 out of 10 workers do not feel that technology has increased their productivity and 1 in 3 said it actually hindered it.

These were the results of a survey at management level, with more male workers than female workers saying it hindered them. Is this a case of technology overselling itself or more that technology devices are seen to distract and encroach on your time day to day?

Screens Everywhere
I write this whilst facing two screens on my home office desk (both with those little email pop ups) and a smart phone at the side of me which would suffer from attention deficit if I had not turned off the sound alerts – although the urge to check it throughout the day is ever present even at home in the evenings and weekends. I also have a tablet and a laptop that get used in the evenings…

If you forget your phone, or the battery dies whilst you are out, the feeling of being cut-off is quite strong (my teenage children tell me it is a tragedy if they can’t see their phone 24/7). All of this does put my ability to multi-task and not get distracted on the line.

We may also be jeopardising our sleep quality by spending up to 85 per cent of our waking hours staring at screens – PC monitors, smart phones, tablets, laptops and then the TV at home.

18 Hours a day
Research (pre lockdown) found that UK workers were spending an average of over 13 hours a day looking at screens while at work, commuting and at home. Surprisingly, some employees were also spending an average of 55 hours 36 minutes a month staring at a screen while commuting, when they could be giving their eyes a much-needed rest. You can see why some want the right to disconnect so that their employers can’t reach them 24/7.

The study (pre-lockdown) revealed that engineers are the professionals that spend the most time staring at a screen throughout their day. On average, engineers are looking at screens for 7 hours at work, 5 hours while commuting and 6 hours and 3 minutes while at home – that leaves 6 hours for sleep!

Engineers top the list
The top five professions that are spending the most time looking at screens throughout the day are: Engineer (18 hours plus); IT Specialist (18 hours); Accountant (13 hours); Teacher (12 hours); Admin Staff (9 hours). Technology seems to be running (or ruining) our lives

This pace of technological advancement is not going to stop; in fact, it is more likely to speed up with ever more sophisticated devices. If we can’t cope with it will AI, or a robot, step in and replace us?Are we ‘over-educated’ for our role (recent research I read suggests that 5.1m workers in the UK are) or ‘under-educated’ to cope with new technology in the workplace?

Switching off
In todays’ business world email is the new phone call with senders expecting your immediate attention and reply, even if you are out of the office or engaged in something else. I get emails asking if I got their email – can’t they just call me if it is urgent? And where does work stop and your personal life take over? The old nine to five, office based model may still exist in some sectors, but in many the edges have become very blurred, particularly during the last twelve months of enforced remote working. This is leading to our work and personal lives merging together – more freedom to work where we want, but less freedom to say when we are done for the day.