Technology helped us shop and play on our terms, and it increasingly lets us work whenever, however and wherever we choose.
Whether it’s improving the work we do in place or helping us achieve more mobility and flexibility, here’s how technology has disrupted work culture.
Bridging the Communication Gap
It’s true enough to say technology empowers us to work from anywhere. That’s been a foregone conclusion of technology forever. The more interesting conversation is about how technology, in turn, makes us feel united despite geographical distances.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about a quarter of U.S. citizens work from home for somebody else. Technology gives them freedom, but it can also make them feel isolated. Research studies show these digital cliques do exist, and that they can rob a company of its sense of cohesion.
Maybe you use a companywide intranet to share advice, success, shout-outs and general nonsense. If you have freelancers and contractors, or a distributed team, don’t sequester them apart from everyone else. A well-built platform can create a genuine sense of community if participation is universal, but also not mandatory.
Mobilizing With True Ubiquitous Computing
True ubiquitous computing has long been the dream for technologists, and we’re quickly closing in on that goal. Leading technology companies are building a web of products and operating systems we can take anywhere — from laptop computers in the home office to smartwatches and smartphones in the field, to tablets and smartboards in clients’ meeting rooms.
In just a few years, cloud computing went from a novel curiosity to a vital part of doing business. Even mentioning it here feels like beating a dead horse — but no conversation about mobile and remote work is the same without it.
There’s virtually no worrying anymore about keeping our documents and works in progress in sync. Companies have a dizzying array of choices for productivity tools for keeping multiple teams, including remote ones, on the same page.
Familiar names like Slack and Asana help keep projects ordered when they have multiple parts and parties involved. Google Drive, Dropbox and Office 365 have standout features of their own for exchanging work and keeping multiple iterations of documents in sync across locations.
Making Some Remote Work Obsolete
Granted, mobile work is only part of the story of ubiquitous computing. In some cases, technology doesn’t support remote work — it makes it redundant.
The Internet of Things, especially when combined with 4G and 5G, provides abundant remote computing functionality that can help keep maintenance technicians and other personnel indoors and focused on other tasks.
For example, the ability to conduct remote inspections of infrastructure, or receive machine telemetry while clients work with rented equipment in the field, can automate some inspection processes and help turn preventive maintenance into predictive and proactive maintenance.
Essential personnel can receive alerts when conditions warrant a response, but are otherwise much freer, more versatile and even more mobile as employees than they were before, thanks to condition monitoring and ubiquitous computing.
Automating Routine Tasks to Free up Creativity
As technology continues to disrupt how and where we work, it will keep finding ways to remove monotonous tasks from our plates. It’s not about being lazy. The adage about most car accidents happening within five minutes of home applies to our work just as well: Errors occur during familiar, repetitive tasks.
The point of employing human beings in the first place is to leverage their talents and creative drives. With that in mind, companies should consider automating back-office functions like the following.
- Backing up company data regularly
- Managing facility visitors and credentials
- Scheduling meetings
- Performing financial and accounting tasks
- Transcribing data or audio records
- Sorting emails
- Sending follow-up messages to customers after sales or other interactions
- Re-ordering supplies or materials
When human beings don’t have to do these tasks, they can focus on other things, like designing better products, putting in more face time with clients and generally having more bandwidth for creative and innovative thinking.
Ultimately, that’s the point of technology, as we suggested in the beginning. It helps us, in a way, rediscover ourselves and our purpose — and to look for new methods and reasons to do the work we do.