Fostering an environment of collaboration and communication has long been a goal that companies strive to achieve — but the way in which companies go about it has evolved, especially when workers who traditionally clocked in at an office now work remotely. It’s easy to see how technology changes the workplace; without the wide range of digital tools currently available, remote employees wouldn’t be able to communicate or do their jobs as effectively.
And that’s not only the case for people working from home. Employees who work in offices have also seen how companies use technology in the workplace — for the better, in most cases, although potential downsides arise, too. One of the biggest drawbacks? A lack of work-life balance.
Read on to find out how exactly technology can benefit employees and organizations as well as detract from a healthy work-life balance.
How Does Technology Affect the Workplace?
Digital tools have the ability to boost — and hinder — work-life balance and engagement for employees, which means it’s crucial to understand how to implement new technology in the workplace in a way that benefits the workers who use it.
According to one study of more than 1,000 U.S. employees, providing workers with the right digital tools can make a huge positive impact in multiple ways.
- 76 percent of participants said having the digital tools they need makes them more productive.
- 53 percent said it makes them more successful.
- 42 percent said the proper technology improves morale.
- One-third credited tech with making them smarter.
- 28 percent responded saying technology made them happier.
However, employers must understand their employees’ needs and provide the right tech which, according to this same survey, may be a challenge. Less than half of white-collar workers and only 37 percent of higher-level coworkers believed their bosses truly understood their technological needs.
In a separate survey by Aruba, a wireless networking company, most respondents (97 percent) felt their workplace would improve with an increase in the use of technology. On the flip side, 64 percent believed their company would fall behind the competition unless they implemented new tech.
Keep in mind that digital tools don’t only affect productivity — technology can improve workplace communication, too. And that’s a big deal, considering research shows 62 percent of employees wish they knew their coworkers better, and even more workers (83 percent) think they’d be more engaged members of their team if they knew their teammates better.
It’s not all digital rainbows and roses when it comes to how technology is changing the workplace, though. In some cases, digital tools make a work-life balance more elusive than ever because that ability to log on from anywhere, anytime, can make employees feel like they always need to be on and available to their bosses and coworkers. Therefore, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for many people to leave work at work.
Not convinced? A 2018 American Time Use survey showed that 30 percent of full-time employees reported working on weekends and holidays. Even having official time off doesn’t keep people from logging on, and experts believe the lack of disconnect will likely become an even bigger issue as more people move to working from home, making it harder and harder to actually be “off.”
That inability to disconnect might make you wonder whether the benefits outweigh the costs — and if so, you probably want to know how technology can enhance teamwork and groups in the workplace without contributing to burnout and dissatisfaction.
Fortunately, tech doesn’t have to decimate work-life balance when there’s clear communication between management and the employees who will use it. One smart way to do this is to run employee surveys to decide what type of technology you should invest in. In one survey, for example, 75 percent of respondents preferred to use a company device rather than a personal one to collaborate with colleagues, which is certainly good intel to have when recruiting or retaining employees.
Make sure you not only maintain an open line of communication, perhaps via regular surveys so employees can offer feedback, but also be ready to investigate new tools if that feedback indicates something isn’t working. You’ll also need to offer plenty of employee training sessions when you introduce new tech, especially if it doesn’t resemble an interface with which the worker is likely familiar (such as Facebook or Slack).
When businesses provide employees with digital tools that allow them to stay connected at all hours, they should also ensure workers understand they’re not obligated to respond to emails outside of work hours. This requires some effort but can have a big effect on employees’ work-life balance. Here are a couple of ways to help workers disconnect after the work day.
Introduce the concept of information overload
Some of the engaging aspects of digital technology may even be addictive, so make sure workers recognize how consuming certain tools can be and share ways to avoid information overload such as turning off notifications.
Normalize time off
Employees who believe working from their phone during a family meal is the norm — or even expected — may not prioritize time away from their tech. But when team leaders make a point to overtly show they support a healthy work-life balance and praise employees for only working during work hours, they create an environment where everyone feels more comfortable stepping away from their phone and computer when they finish the workday.
Support digital detoxing
Offering employees the opportunity to sign a pledge committing to reduce any unhealthy tech habits can go a long way toward encouraging a healthy work-life balance. Make the pledge even more effective by including specific steps, such as a week-long digital detox to follow.
By listening to your employees about the technology they need, remaining open to feedback on what does (and does not) work, and creating an environment that openly supports workers disconnecting from technology during personal time, you can ensure technology has a positive effect on your team’s work-life balance and engagement.