It is well known that technological advancements offer endless benefits to organisations. However, the excitement that comes with this prospect can blind us to the risks inherent in this modernisation. Executives must act with caution – otherwise, the promised benefits of advancement may be negated by countervailing forces.
It’s almost impossible to think of a workplace without technology. How could we do many of the simple tasks we take for granted without phones, the internet and other means of instant communication? We are indebted to these appliances and amenities. Indebted and reliant.
Technology makes our workplaces more efficient and more productive. It is, without a doubt, a positive force. That is why the future is looked upon so fondly in the business community; we can only dream of the advancements to come and the benefits that will materialise.
It would be irresponsible for an executive to not embrace these changes. For it is an executive’s job to be perceptible to advancements in the outside world and ensure their organisation is agile enough to capitalise on these benefits once they become available.
But this is not to say that executives should be judged on the extent to which they embrace technology purely. Embracing is the easy part. The more accurate measure of an executive is their ability to balance the benefits of technology against its harms.
Like everything, technology is not absolutely good, nor absolutely bad. The extent to which it can completely transform a workplace can obscure the fact that there are inherent risks.
Take the internet for example. The obvious benefit for a workplace is that it allows employees to work from home. They can use video chat and email in order to remain connected to their bosses. This is better for the environment – since they do not need to use transport to get to work – and it can help them achieve more balance in their lives.
An intuitive leader would see a flipside to this. Technology keeps employees connected to the workplace at all times, which can mean that their jobs come to dominate their personal spaces. This is demonstrated by Bellezza, Keinan and Paharia’s 2016 study, which found that a new workplace culture is emerging whereby a person’s social status is influenced above all else by their presence online. In other words, employees – due to technology – may feel pressured to never switch off from their work for fear of their status dropping. Remarkably, a recent US survey found that 59% of employees receive work emails post 6pm and 75% send them.
The impact that this can have on employees is devastating. Studies indicate that mental health starts to decline the moment you start working more than 38 hours per week. At 48 hours, it deteriorates rapidly.
It is also of note that your capacity to be productive drops the more hours you work. Having employees who never switch off undermines their productivity and diminishes the returns they can deliver your organisation.
What this demonstrates is that executives must be extremely wary of using technology in the workplace. Obviously, these technologies must be incorporated into organisations; the benefits they deliver far outweigh the costs. But the success of an executive’s implementation of technology will depend on the measures they take to ensure its dark underbelly does not become exposed.
Complete leaders must be adaptable; this means that they must prepare for the impacts of change so that their organisation is able to benefit. But a benefit should not be construed narrowly; it can also include avoiding a harm.
Executives must stare the risks inherent in technology full in the face and decide what to do next. Otherwise, they will stymy the growth they are working so hard to achieve.
The Complete Leader Program targets three key qualities of leadership: balance, engagement and adaptability. If you are looking to improve your capacity to respond to change, please contact Melinda Fell .