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The 21st century has been characterized by major technological advances that have helped humanity achieve great progress. New technologies have changed the manner in which business is conducted and organizations have had to adapt themselves to the prevailing technologies in order to remain competitive.
Employees have been forced to keep adapting themselves to new technologies in order for the organization to benefit. Lommerud, Meland, and Rune (2006) declare that new technology has enabled organizations to increase productivity and gain a competitive edge on the global market. In spite of these benefits, there have been concerns that using new technology does not always assist employees and employers in the organization.
These concerns have been raised following the realization that new technology might lead to the disruption of customary work practices or negatively affect the productivity of employees. This paper will argue that while new technology has benefits in the workplace, it is mostly a negative occurrence since it has substantial negative impacts on employees and employers. To reinforce this assertion, the paper will analyse a number of prominent disadvantages that arise because of using new technology in the workplace.
Arguments against New Technology
New Technology facilitates teleworking, which exposes employers to social isolation and mental health problems. Technological advances in communication have made possible the concept of teleworking, which is defined as work far away from the office using technology (Mann & Hotdsworth 2003).
Teleworking was initially praised since it provided flexibility to both the employee and the employer. However, this new technology has a number of significant demerits. Teleworkers suffer from social isolation since they are unable to interact with their colleagues in the same way they would if they had to go to the workplace physically.
Teleworking also increases mental health problems as employees are forced to juggle the different roles of worker and parent within the home setting (Mann & Hotdsworth 2003). Proponents of new technology assert that innovations such as teleworking increase the work-life balance of the employee since he/she spends less time away from home and is therefore able to use time with his/her family and partner.
While it is true that teleworking increases the time the employee spends at home, this does not lead to better balance of home and work life. Mann and Hotdsworth (2003) demonstrate that teleworking increases conflict as it blurs the boundaries between work and family for most employees. The new technology of teleworking therefore has the negative impacts of social isolation, mental health problems, and increased work-life conflict.
New technology creates too much information for the employees and this might lead to stress and burnout. New technology has increased the efficiency and effectiveness of communication and workers are today able to access information quickly and easily from any location.
New technology has intruded into the personal lives of employees as they are able to access work related messages and phone calls even while at home or on vacation. Monideepa et al. (2011) observe that this ubiquitous feature of new technology forces workers to respond to work-related information in real time and they may end up swamped with information from many sources. Monideepa et al. (2011) declare that information overload leads to stress which significantly reduces job satisfaction.
Dissatisfied employees are less committed to the organization and their individual performance is reduced which affects the overall productivity of the company. Informational overload also forces employees to work for more hours and at faster rates. Because of technologies such as collaborative applications and social networking, employees are able to receive and process multiple streams of data and they are pressured to attend to the information in real time.
This increases stress and burnout as the employees cope to deal with the workload (Monideepa et al. 2011). This statement is corroborated by a report by LexisNexis (2010) which reveals that technology leads to information overload in the workplace and this excessive information was pushing many workers to their breaking point.
Proponents of new technology argue that the availability of sufficient information in a timely manner is beneficial to business operation. While this is true, too much information will decrease the efficiency of the employees and therefore harm overall business productivity.
Employees can use new technology in the workplace for their own personal endeavours and this will lead to time wastage and therefore less productivity. Technologies such as emails and social networking sites provide a way for employees to communicate effectively for both work and non-work related issues.
However, the numerous benefits of internet technologies can be negated by misuse of these resources by employees. For example, social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook, which provide a way for people to keep in touch with each other and share information, can be used for personal interaction therefore costing the organization.
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Research by Wyatt and Phillips (2005) reveals that employees who used the internet as part of their work spent 25% of their time on the internet for private purposes. This misuse of company time leads to decreased productivity and the employee does not get maximum performance from his/her staff. Proponents of new technology reveal that access to certain websites can be imposed or monitoring software installed to control the websites that employees visit.
While such measures have the potential of reducing the amount of time spent accessing internet resources for private purposes, implementing them would require additional resources from the organization and create a sense of intrusion to the employee’s life. In addition to this, employees can continue accessing personal email under the pretence that they are dealing with work related material. New technology therefore leads to employees wasting company time and demonstrating low productivity.
New technology might decrease employee performance as workers are faced with uncertainty due to the introduction of novel innovations. To begin with, the adoption of new technology will require employees to learn how to use the new system in their everyday operations. Frequent changes will require employees to keep relearning how to make use of technology.
The steep technology-related learning curves increase the pressure and strain on many employees who have to adapt in order to remain relevant in their jobs. The productivity of the employees during the learning period is decreased as they try to familiarize themselves with the new system.
The organization culture might also have to be changed to accommodate new technology. Lommerud et al. (2006) observe that the rate of workplace reforms has increased as organizations seek to adapt to rapid technological changes. New technology also increases employee uncertainty and decreases their loyalty to the organization due to decreased job security.
Lommerud et al. (2006) reveal that many employees have a valid incentive to be worried about new labour saving technology since such technology results in job losses and wage cuts. Proponents of new technology may argue that technological improvements lead to increased profitability for employees and higher standards of living for employees. However, new technology may make some employees redundant and cause them to lose their jobs.
When employees are unsure of their work security, they will not demonstrate loyalty to the organization and their rate of turnover will be high. High employee turnover leads to reduced productivity and increases the cost to employers who have to spend significant resources rehiring and training new staff to fill in the vacated positions.
This paper set out to argue that new technology is mostly detrimental to work productivity since it has a number of significant negative impacts on employees and employers. To buttress this assertion, the paper discussed four ways in which new technology is negative.
Teleworking will lead to social isolation and increase the risk of acquiring mental health problems. The information overload created by new technology causes stress and inefficiency among employees. Emails and social networks increase the likelihood that employees will waste company time on their personal correspondence.
New technology that threatens to cause job losses will decrease employee loyalty and possibly lead to high turnover rates. Considering these negative outcomes of new technology, it is clear that organizations should not be too quick to delve into new technologies in the hope that they will lead to increase business performance. Instead, they should carefully access the impact that new technology will have on employees and employers and if the impacts are excessively negative, dismiss this new technology.
LexisNexis 2010, International Workplace Productivity Survey White Collar Highlights, LexisNexis Publications, New Jersey.
Lommerud, KE Meland, F & Rune, S 2006, ‘Globalisation and union opposition to technological change’, Journal of International Economics, vol. 68, no.1, pp. 1-23.
Mann, S & Hotdsworth, L 2003, ‘The psychological impact of teleworking: stress, emotions and health’, New Technology Work and Employment, vol. 18, no.3, pp. 195-211.
Monideepa, T Qiang, T Ragu-Nathan, TS & Bhanu, SR 2011, ‘Crossing to the Dark Side: Examining Creators, Outcomes, and Inhibitors of Technostress’, Communications of the ACM, vol. 54, no. 9, pp. 113-120.
Wyatt, K & Phillips, JG 2005, Internet use and misuse in the workplace, Proceedings of OZCHI, Canberra, Australia.