Technology has changed modern life as fundamentally as fire impacted the caveman. Fire changed how primitive men lived—it extended their day, and their existence, beyond sunset. Likewise, technology has changed how we live as well. It has allowed us to do more, and expanded our knowledge and ability to learn beyond anything we ever imagined.
But has technology actually improved our ability to work? Does today’s technology make us more, or less, efficient at work? With the advent of instant mass communication over the last decade, it’s easy to fall into “tech traps” where technology can actually work against us. Let’s take a look at some do’s and don’ts when it comes to technology in the workplace.
DON’T let technology become a distraction.
Twitter didn’t exist 10 years ago, and now you can’t escape some people’s thoughts and life experiences. Posting updates and photos to your Facebook page takes time away from daily obligations. Texting and social media have created a 24/7 electronic world…and how can you not check out the “cute puppy and cat cuddling” video on YouTube, sent to you and about 100 others…after which up pops another “squirrel waterskiing” video, and so on and so forth.
DO be social while using electronic media—it’s fun to be tied in.
But, realize that social is for outside work, and the workplace is still for work. Think of social media as a cocktail party. Unless it’s the annual holiday get together, cocktail parties don’t happen at work. Social media is an interactive medium, not reactive like listening to the radio. Being hooked into social media at work impacts efficiency and productivity. Before you know it, you might struggle to catch up….and your employer will begin to notice.
DON’T let technology become an intrusion.
How many times have you emerged from one meeting, all set to go back to your office to actually do some work, when you find you’ve been booked into another meeting starting right away? How many times have you been caught in an endless chain of emails from people replying to all to say they’ll attend a meeting?
That ‘ping,’ or flashing light, causes you to realize that someone, somewhere, is sending you a message. Some studies show people check their emails more than 500 times per day!
DO unplug once in a while.
It’s OK—you won’t miss much and you can catch up in an hour or two. If you’re working on a project plan, budget or an absolute must-do with a deadline, eliminate those electronic distractions. Put your phone away—and not on vibrate! Close your laptop window to both emails and the Internet. Focus on the project you are doing; chances are you’ll be much more efficient and get the job done in half the time.
DON’T let technology become a dependence.
A server outage, a lost smart phone, a crashed website, an expired domain name…these kinds of snags cause many of us to stop functioning; we may as well rock in the fetal position in a dark closet until order is restored!
It’s natural that we’ve become dependent on technology—that was the whole idea, but too dependent almost suffocates us from producing, interacting and engaging as we’re meant to.
DO become independent from technology every now and then.
Change your approach at work and see how much more efficient you could become. Once per week, go “old school” and work like you used to. Take a hard copy of a report in your hands and read it. Make notes all over it. Underline. Draw silly faces if you wish.
At the beginning of each week, write down a To Do list and keep it in plain view on your desk. Cross off the items as you complete them and you’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment as the week progresses. You just don’t get that same feeling with assignments buried on an electronic calendar.
And, instead of firing off that email, walking over and discussing an idea in person might be a refreshing approach for all employees.
Just as fire probably burned the caveman in the beginning, we are in the developmental stages of learning how to work efficiently and effectively with newer and newer technology. As we understand how it can help us, it’s also important to recognize some technology dangers and traps, and how to avoid them.