We’ve grown accustomed to using technology in everyday life. We use our phones as alarm clocks, check social media over breakfast, use computers at work and watch television in the evening.
To some extent we even plan parts of our life around technology: whether that be keeping half an hour in the evening free to watch your favourite show, or not leaving the house for an extra hour because your phone battery was only on 20%.
None of these things are seen as a hindrance as such (apart from maybe your phone battery not lasting long) and actually technology is extremely useful as part of our day-to-day lives. All too often have I heard people say “I don’t know what I would do without my phone” – maybe you can relate to this?
Your mobile phone alone has become a source of social interaction, a way to capture memories (with the camera), a way to catch up on news and a way to pay for things – and this is just your mobile phone. My guess would be you also have a computer and maybe a tablet of some sort?
Is this reliance on tech actually good for us? Possibly not, but it definitely feels like technology helps us with work and our personal lives on a daily basis.
Now to rephrase and rethink the question – does technology hinder productivity?
Productivity isn't an easy metric to define but for many it is doing or achieving a lot and further to this, it’s working hard and getting results.
The first thing to note is when used properly at work, technology can make people more productive. It can help streamline processes and make things quicker without losing quality.
There is a good reason that technology has developed so quickly in the workplace and that we all it them day-to-day. Despite tech making our jobs easier or more scalable, it also serves as a distraction.
Email can be such a time waster, especially when “workers spend as much as 50% of their average eight hour working day dealing with emails, although only about 14% are crucial to their work.” (Is technology a drain on productivity?, Personnel Today)
Emails are a huge distraction. Every time you see a new email come into your inbox, there seems to be a sense of urgency to open it and find out what it is, but unless it’s actually important, why do we bother?
It’s not helped by the fact the email might come in on every device you own, so it feels impossible to ignore.
A way to go about stopping emails from draining the productivity of the team is to introduce the idea of periodically checking emails rather than keeping them open on a browser.
The idea behind this is that if something is urgent, it deserves a phone call rather than an email so employees can close their emails and just check every 2-3 hours to see if there is anything they need to respond to.
Bad IT Systems
Technology that doesn’t work properly is always a hindrance – how can you be expected to be productive if the technology doesn’t allow for it?
This includes both hardware and software. Old hardware can be slow and out-of-date software doesn’t always have the functionality you need.
In this case, bad IT systems can mean the technology you’re using is obstructing your productivity.
The only real fix for this is to upgrade your systems so they are at the standard you need to keep productivity high. It’s an investment based on the idea that new tech can help people work faster and get more done but with the same high quality.
Social media is a relatively new distraction but a big one, especially among younger employees. Whilst some companies go to the lengths of blocking social media access on the company network, that doesn't stop people accessing the content on their phone through their mobile internet.
It’s damaging to productivity when employees start checking their social media regularly throughout the day for 5-10 minutes at a time. This adds up to lost and wasted time.
Social media is a tricky distraction to get round. Some might choose to approach it by warning that social media is a distraction and shouldn’t be checked during work hours – this is fine but could be met with some annoyance.
Another way to consider, is to explain that checking social media every so often isn’t a problem but it should be kept to a minimum and shouldn’t distract you for more than a couple of minutes.
When you come back to the question of whether technology hinders productivity – the answer is yes and no. On the one hand, technology increases productivity and helps people get their work done, but on the other hand it provides distraction for employees and stops them working.