Technology is impacting us all, whether we choose to embrace it or not! It’s something I’ve thought about (and written about) a lot, and a recent debate we arranged within the Strategy Plus team threw up some interesting questions about how technology is impacting work/life balance and how it will go on to do so in the near future.
With devices becoming increasingly portable and fast, we can now access our work almost everywhere, seemingly only dependant on wifi connection. Technology’s greatest impacts in the way in which we work are often cited as the ability for greater precision, consistency and for easy communication – with one click we can connect with people across the globe at any time of day, making it far easier to do business with companies worldwide – but what about the impact on office culture?
The ease of sending emails is overriding the office worker’s impulse to pick up the phone or walk over to someone’s desk – many of our clients complain of “email culture”, with clogged inboxes and endless “reply-all”. This begs the question of whether new technology has influenced our business culture or business culture is influencing how we use new technology.
It seems to me that, because we have access to information instantaneously anytime, we also seek this from people as well as technology. There have probably been times when we can all admit to wondering why someone hasn’t responded to our email immediately!
Whilst it’s useful to stay connected, being able to access five different communication methods – from messaging to face time on our smart phones – also means we have to think harder about our work/life balance. To resist checking emails away from the office, when it’s so quick and easy to do so, is more difficult than it may seem. Has it become the norm for our working hours and own time to become blurred?
This blurring of boundaries can also work the other way, with many of the most popular workplaces bringing elements of home-life into their culture and design. In a recent list published on Glassdoor, based on both a survey of workers’ opinions on the pros and cons of holding a job at their company, as well as ratings on how satisfied they are there, the top three companies (Google, Bain & Co. and Nestle Purina) were all supported by employee comments citing things like “beautiful campus” and “excellent culture”, with employees at Nestle Purina even able to bring pets into the workplace. Employees clearly place high value on being able to bring elements of their home and social life into the workplace, and employers are increasingly finding ways to offer this.
So what does this mean for our clients and our workplace designs? How can we maximise the benefits to the merging of work and home life and what does this mean for the future of offices? For example, an approach of 50:50 workspace and social space could enable us to interact and work in a less formal manner, and as long as deadlines are met and the work is done, why should we not embrace a flexible workday?
Although it has both benefits and limitations, technology can only be what we make of it, and so it is imperative that we understand the best ways to make it work for us and for our clients
Amy Bourne (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a designer at AECOM’s Strategy Plus practice in London.