Does Technology Really Increase Workplace Productivity?
With employee working hours being one of the biggest expenses a business has to account for in their operating budget, productivity (and a meaningful lack of it) has a price tag.
The question of whether technology truly increases productivity has long been debated—as with increased capabilities also come increased distractions but it seems clear that technology has added much more to the average employee’s toolkit than it has taken away. Now, in a world simultaneously more connected and disconnected than ever, many companies that had not yet started riding the remote-working wave have been—very abruptly—forced to pivot and readjust in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which will likely change work as we know it forever. Moving forward, a well-developed technological system that is catered to each specific company’s needs will be extremely important in maintaining productivity on both an individual and corporate basis.
How technology can help productivity
- Improve communication
Miscommunication has been proven to be one of the biggest threats to workplace productivity and, as such, to a business’ bottom line. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, small companies with 100 employees lose approximately $420,000 annually and companies with 100,000 employees lose an average of $62.4 million per year as a result of poor communication to and between employees.
A wealth of technological tools have been introduced to the workforce over the last decade that have the ability to radically change this situation—and to maintain a connected workforce even in light of recent dispersion. Outside of the obvious technological darling of the coronavirus era, Zoom, employee instant messaging tools like Slack and Teams allow for remote collaboration on an in-the-moment basis (which may even be more productive than in-person meetings or long, droning emails).
Technology helps with external communication, too—with less time wasted and more significant connections gained. From LinkedIn to even Facebook, making connections that could lead to enhanced productivity and financial gains has never been easier or more efficient.
- Increased organization/time management
For all of the internet’s seemingly infinite distractions, it also provides us with some pretty nifty tools for managing time and organizing tasks. Project management tools like Basecamp, Asana, Wrike and others have significantly increased the bandwidth of managers to assess the productivity of their employees and, if needed, see the work that is being produced in the moment—making tracking time, worker accountability, assigning tasks and tracking progress to goals extremely easy. For hourly employees, time spent working can easily be tracked (whether manually or with a time-tracking system) and reported instantly.
Through utilization of the communication tools mentioned above, time spent on the editing and refining process is also cut down, as this process can be happening in real-time, while other tasks are happening as well.
What technology can’t fix
- Unmotivated (and therefore unproductive) workers
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employee productivity has been declining for the past decade, even as new technologies designed to improve workplace productivity have been introduced.
Technology was created to be a tool for increased productivity—but it cannot do our work for us, and most technologies are not a one-size-fits all solution. Unless your productivity problems are purely technological, no one new piece of technology will take widespread poor productivity and turn it into a well-oiled machine. Technology can improve efficiency, but it can’t create it out of nowhere.
Technology works best for increasing productivity when it is tailored to meet your organization’s specific needs—which means that the type of technology you need to introduce will depend on what your existing threats to productivity are. If you start by identifying your needs and then identifying a technology to address them, technology can be the solution to your productivity issues and can increase efficiency in a way that helps your workplace culture and your bottom line.