Just about everyone has heard the term work smarter not harder, but these days it seems to be work smarter and harder. Due to technology advancements the work place has changed almost beyond recognition in the past few decades. Improvements in information technology and communication have changed not only our efficiency, but the length of our work day as well. The question remains, how can management best support productivity without creating unhappy workers?
With most workers having access to email, smartphones and internet, people are always on Que. According to data from Gallup.com, the average American works 47 hours a week, more than any other country, including Japan. Technology helps drive productivity but also creates longer hours. It is common for an employee to check email before heading into the office for the typical 9-5 workday and make calls on the commute into the office and while heading home. These extra hours are usually not even considered part of the work day.
A Pew Research Survey polled 1,000 workers and found the majority felt email, the internet, and smart phones do make them more efficient and productive. However, at the same time a Gallup poll shows the majority of people, 70%, are not fully engaged at work. The same technology that can boost productivity also provides a million distractions, all at your fingertips.
What does all of this mean? First, just because you have the tools to be productive doesn’t mean you are actually producing for your company, and second, a productive worker does not necessarily mean a happy worker. These are both important conclusions for employers to consider as unhappy workers will be more likely to move on and loss of productivity hurts the bottom line.
It could be the people who are the most productive would be the most productive whether they had technology or not. They work hard because of a strong work ethic and personality type. It will be important for managers to give these people time to get work done and not require constant electronic communication that will distract them along the way.
Also, it’s important to ask if the 70% of workers who say they are not happy or engaged at work, are unhappy because they have higher stress levels, since they have no down time from the office. Slowly new policies are coming into place that say workers should not be on email before 7 or after 7, trying to reduce burnout and ensure that when employees are working they are more focused. Flex time and working from home also help workers create a schedule in which they can maximize productivity and happiness. While technology is a blessing it’s also a curse, and needs to be balanced and managed to ensure its helping, and not hurting, your company.
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