Workplace technology has completely revolutionized the way we work, and for the most part, that’s been a good thing. Though there’s some limited evidence to the contrary, most new forms of technology help us become more productive. They enable us to connect with other professionals around the world, increase the speed at which we can work and communicate, and open entirely new markets to explore.
However, there are some downsides for high-tech workplaces to consider as well; knowing how to recognize and navigate these downsides is becoming increasingly important, as technology permeates more areas of our working lives.
So what are the biggest disadvantages of high-tech workplaces, and what can you do to mitigate them?
These are some of the biggest and most important disadvantages of abundant workplace technology:
1. Sedentary habits. Technology usually enables us to spend less time on tasks and exert less effort doing them—but that’s not always a good thing. Long-term reliance on technology often means spending most the workday sitting down, with little to no movement. This sedentary lifestyle, if not counteracted with regular exercise, can lead to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and a variety of other physical health conditions. Fortunately, this disadvantage is easy to overcome, with standing desks, periodic exercise throughout the day, and vigorous exercise outside of work a few times a week.
2. Distraction. Distractions can also be a problem, especially now that most the world is connected to high-speed internet. The internet is home to unlimited content and entertainment, never more than a click or two away, so distractions can interfere with even the most dedicated worker’s productivity. You can compensate for this by structuring your day to include designated time for distractions, and by blocking distractions altogether with browser plugins or by disconnecting entirely.
3. Loneliness. Technology is at least partially responsible for the development of a loneliness epidemic, which has made people more isolated than ever before. Because you can communicate through a screen and work from home, interpersonal interactions are few and far between. Workplaces can compensate for this by hosting more teambuilding events, and encouraging more face-to-face interactions.
4. Environment and culture. It’s depressing to be locked inside a cubicle, with only a screen for company, eight hours a day. Technology, if used irresponsibly, can ruin your work culture and make your environment seem sterile and unfulfilling. You can reverse this tendency by investing more in the quality of your workplace environment, including improving the quality of your air, playing music, showcasing artwork, and making people feel like they’re a part of the culture.
5. Cost. Staying up-to-date with the latest and greatest technology can be expensive—even if it ends up saving you money in the long term. You can mitigate your costs here by investing in more used equipment, staying a half-step behind the latest tech development cycles, and allowing your employees to use their personal devices.
6. Security. Unfortunately, there’s a downside to those personal devices—as well as any other devices or software you use for your business. Any kind of technology you use bears a risk, thanks to the frequency of cyberattacks on small businesses; all your data is at least somewhat vulnerable. To compensate for this risk, you’ll need to invest in better security software and infrastructure, employ a talented IT crew, and keep your employees educated and up-to-date on best cybersecurity practices.
7. Training and retention. You might also have a problem training new employees on your technology, or retaining them when you switch systems. Some new tech is complicated, and challenging to learn for people who aren’t used to a fast-paced learning environment. The easiest ways to compensate for this disadvantage are to hire more flexible people, and be more flexible in your approach to training.
Finding the Balance
None of these disadvantages implies that technology is bad, or something to be avoided. Rather, they illustrate that technology isn’t a perfect or complete solution to improve workplace performance or cultures. Work to recognize both sides of technological integration, and compensate for the real weaknesses that technology can bring.