Digital nomads, contingent and non-employee workers, smart machines, robots and 3D printers all “work” for companies in different ways using technology
You don’t need to wear a tie, be chained to a cubicle or punch a timecard to clock-in at work anymore in many industries. Thanks to today’s tech staples such as wifi, you can work wherever and whenever as long as the work gets done. And you’re probably more productive.
There’s a whole new generation of workers who want to get things done their way and do it better and faster without being tied to an office. Millennials, or so-called “digital natives,” have practically grown up with the internet and embrace new technology constantly. Why should their work lives be any different?
There’s no doubt that technology has changed the way we work, live and interact with one another. Here are some of the major tech advances that have re-shaped the way we work:
Mobile devices, such as cell phones, tablets and wearable devices have liberated people from being attached to a work desk. You can check emails, Skype with co-workers, bank online, order food and keep in touch with your friends and family all while taking a walk. We’re now connected to nearly everybody and everything anywhere.
This ability to work from anywhere at any time, using almost any device is particularly valuable for younger workers. Employers, take note: Research by the Kenan-Flagler Business School found that one in three millennials say that social media freedom, device flexibility and work mobility have a higher priority than salary.
Cloud computing gives people the ability to access programs and data through the internet. This technology reduces costs and maintenance since there’s no longer a need to buy and install programs on a computer. Also, with all these shared resources, companies can have employees working together at the same time in different locations. A growing part of the workforce are digital nomads who work from a coffee shop, a beach or while traveling around the world.
Telepresence technologies allow the user to feel as if they’re actually at a place that they’re physically not. Programs such as Skype, GoToMeeting and WebEx are perfect for conferences, marketing presentations and training. One of the greatest benefits for employers is that using this technology significantly reduces or eliminates time and money spent on travel.
The growth of smart machines and automation of everyday business tasks has disrupted every part of nearly every industry. Smart machines that learn on their own and communicate with other machines through the internet have experienced great advancements which companies are leveraging daily.
Robotics and sensors, which are the two main categories within smart machines, are really making waves. Manufacturing companies use robots for heavy lifting, assembly, repair and maintenance. Companies who employ robots have less room for human error, experience fewer accidents and worry less about overworking employees. In addition, sensors will take over mundane tasks such as detect when ink is running low and place the order for a cartridge, and it will arrive before you even knew the ink was low. These new-age sensors monitor a wide range of everyday items freeing up employees to concentrate on larger issues.
The process of 3D printing uses materials that can be layered to create three-dimensional objects. Being able to create complex and intricate models and prototypes quicker will save a company time and labor costs as well as enabling products to get to market faster.
Engineering and manufacturing companies embracing this technology will advance in leaps and bounds over their competitors.
If the present tech trends are an indicator of what’s to come then the future is going to look like a sci-fi movie. Technology will be in every part of our lives making everyday tasks and processes easier and more efficient. This generation of workers has started the trend of freeing workers from their office.
The future will be all about time. Some companies, especially in the tech industry, offer strategies focused on results instead of time clocked in. Policies such as unlimited vacation or discretionary time off are revolutionizing how we see our work schedule and it’s giving the control to employees who want to work on their own time to get their job done. Granted, not all business models have this ability, but for those that do, productivity is exploding.
The office is no longer the be-all end-all as a workplace. Even the importance of the time card in certain industries is on the decline. Is this better for workers? Of course. Everybody has their own way of working and now companies are recognizing that fact. Is it better for companies? Yes. Work should be about results, not number of hours at work.
Of course, these changes not only impact how we work, but also more importantly how workers themselves perceive their work as a part of their life. Studies have shown that the ability to be “always-on” promotes a greater sense of accountability and empowers workers to truly own their tasks and projects. However, a potential downside of this accessibility is the loss of a home life and potential worker burnout that can occur when workers become saddled to their employers through technology in the form of emails or late night texts.
Being able to control the work-life balance is imperative to satisfaction at work as well as having downtime while at home. The tech industry proves that freeing up workers has actually increased worker productivity and no one has disappeared on a 60-day vacation. And even if they did, they’d probably have a laptop and also be working because they’ve become the new breed of super workers!
What tech trends are you seeing in the workplace? How does it impact the way you work?
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