Is technology impacting workplace wellness?

Technology at work is impacting wellness and is the root cause of conflict, a new study has claimed. While schools already have their work cut out keeping children safe on the internet – and off their ‘phones during school time – problems can also arise behind the scenes

A Walters People survey shows that 42% of respondents believe workplace technology negatively impacts work-life balance; 60% of older workers fear the introduction of new technologies and 34% of millennials cite older workers not understanding this new tech as the chief cause of conflict in the workplace.

The business reason for digitally transforming an organisation makes sense, with three-quarters (72%) of employers believing tech helps to improve workflow and overall staff productivity. Other reasons cited by companies as demonstrating the need for a more tech-centric workplace include strengthening collaboration between staff and improving communications (58%), helping to track results and streamline decision-making (22%) and attracting and retaining talent (17%).

“Advances in technology have already changed the way organisations and employees work,” Lucy Bisset, director of Walters People Manchester, explains. “With teams more dispersed, and covering more time zones, working with others via ‘phone, virtual meetings and video has become a norm. Adopting a digital workplace has also helped companies streamline operations and enhance speed of communication, as well as accessing information in a much more effective way.”

Buy-in from employees

Eighty-five per cent of employees agree their productivity would be enhanced by technology, with a further 80% claiming working for a tech-savvy company would boost their morale, and 78% agreeing that tech would help to enhance co-ordination between departments.

However, whilst the aim of digital transformation is to create a ‘smarter working’ environment, it also brings with it some challenges. The biggest fear of employees is the expectation to ‘always be on’ – in fact, almost half (42%) believe tech negatively impacts their work-life balance and doesn’t allow them an opportunity to switch-off.

Further concerns include the struggle to learn, and apply, new technologies (31%) and the fear of technologies replacing jobs (22%).

“Digital transformation of the workplace should be a top-down initiative,” Lucy adds. “Executive support and adoption is crucial – especially when trying to prove the commercial and rational benefits for both the organisation and the individual. All too often, we see senior leaders stick to their traditional working methods whilst expecting employees to accommodate this as well as new, innovative processes introduced by the IT department.

“The solution is simple; if there is a new intranet, or instant messaging platform, introduced then the senior business executives should communicate via these means regularly. If the business has moved towards a cloud-based sharing system then managers need to ensure that they are the primary users – which will naturally drive employees to adopt these practices.”

Older workers playing catch-up

Whilst half (44%) of millennials state that employers should adopt the latest technologies, this is significantly lower for generation X (25%) and baby boomers (11%). In fact, an overwhelming 60% of these workers admitted to fearing the introduction of new technologies, with a third (35%) stating that they are yet to get a full grasp of current technologies used in the workplace.

Millennial professionals are also distinct from their older colleagues in their attitudes towards social media. Almost 40% of millennials felt that employers should actively encourage workers to incorporate social media into their work, compared to less than a quarter (24%) of generation X and just 10% of baby boomers.

Here are Lucy Bisset’s top tips to improve the rate of adoption of new technology.

Choose technology wisely

When you’re shopping around for a new technology, bear your team’s interests in mind. Functionality is critical, but so is user-friendliness. Technologies that require multi-day training programmes, and hefty user manuals, are a sure-fire recipe for stalled adoption.

Communicate it properly, as soon as possible

In the early stages, start by encouraging employees to submit their opinions about the technology you want to introduce; this will help the idea gain acceptance by the people who will use it most. You will also need to ensure that each employee who will be impacted understands how the changes will help them in the long run. Involve each of them in every stage of decision-making and let them know its importance to business growth – acceptance of new technology in the workplace is a crucial stage for effective performance and accurate feedback.

Highlight the benefits

Technology can do so much to make our lives easier, but the process of learning new technology can still be daunting. To ensure team members are bought-in, help them understand the decision to implement new technology. Identify the limitations, or problems, in the current processes and help them see how technology could solve those problems and make their jobs run more smoothly.

Although fear is normal in the face of change, we can’t let fear stop us from making a good decision. Ultimately, technology will make their jobs easier and allow them to be more productive, but employees may need help to see past any perceived short-term pain to the long-term vision.

Give your employees time to get used to the idea

Before you implement any new process, or software, give your employees a few months to understand what you are changing, and why. Talk about the benefits to your employees, rather than just the business itself, and let them know they are welcome to ask as many questions as they like to ensure they have all the information they need. Be transparent and open; don’t leave things out because trust is what is going to be most valuable between you and your employees.

Slowly introduce new concepts

If you can introduce your employees to your new software in phases, it’s less likely to be overwhelming for them. Depending on the system, and size of your company, it can sometimes take a year or more to get all of your employees to use a new piece of tech, so be prepared to factor this into your time-frames.

Have champions

There are always people who readily accept new technology; these are your champions and influencers. They can help convince reluctant co-workers where no-one else can. These champions act as early adopters of the technology and can aid in the training and the support of other team members. The more individuals who fall within this category of genuine champions, the easier the transition will be to company or department-wide acceptance.

Customise training

Familiarity with, and interest in, digital technology varies widely among employees and your training efforts should reflect those differences. Some employees might prefer an online training session; others might need a bit more ‘handholding’ and support in the form of a personal coach.

Listen to feedback

Develop a system of collaborative communication, targeting the employees’ perceptions, concerns and experiences of the new technology. The environment must feel safe for employees to voice their opinions truthfully, so it may be worthwhile to set up an anonymous survey that users can complete, or to appoint a group representative who employees trust to communicate the general sentiment about the new technology.

Highlight quick wins

Once employees begin to use the technology more and more, draw attention to the positive impact it’s having on your organisation. Publicising quick wins helps build a case for change and acceptance.

Talk about it during the on-boarding process

New employees can be a great starting point, if your older employees are reluctant to budge, because they are already in a position to adopt new processes. Start new employees off on the new system and encourage them to use the new technology on a regular basis to phase out the older processes.

Give it enough time

Implementing and adopting new technology won’t be easy for your team. One of the reasons for the failure of most adoptions is the assumption that technology will be easily integrated into company culture and start to give positive results immediately. You should rethink this, and set long-term expectations.

To start with, you should be prepared for errors and misunderstandings; research the average performance of the introduced technology and ensure your expectations are based on the resources you have. Allow employees to embrace it slowly, and ensure you set targets and realistic expectations.

Evaluate the performance

When introducing new technology to your organisation it is crucial to measure the performance, results, the return on investment (ROI), impact on users and so on. These measures can then be deployed to identify the minor and major problem areas and how to make it work more efficiently for your business procedures. Set the tracks so as to be able to compare the performance before and after the introduction. Be open to the feedback and criticisms from your employees and ensure the suitable environment for their candid feedback.

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