Technology in the Workplace

The technological advances achieved in the past few decades have brought about a revolution in the business world, affecting nearly all aspects of a working life. People can reach others throughout the world in a matter a seconds, with cost being increasingly negligible. Employees no longer need to be physically with their clients and co-workers; instead they can communicate effectively at home, at a distant office, across the world, and even in their car or on an airplane. Although these new technologies offer a wide variety of services and opportunities, they seem united by a single factor: increased efficiency and productivity. Indeed, companies have been quick to adopt many of these technologies, and tout significant improvements in business performance. However, as the physical office loses importance and employees are encouraged to telecommute from their location of choice, these physically isolated workers will inevitably suffer a loss of face-to-face interpersonal skills and a deterioration of relationships in the workplace.

Although the subject of immense media hype and scrutiny in the past few years, this technological revolution in the business world has occurred slowly but surely over the past few decades, even as far back as the invention of telegraphy in the 1850s. The invention of the telephone, fax machine, and more recent developments in wireless communications and video-conferencing have offered businesses more flexibility and efficiency, and those willing to embrace these new technologies found they were more likely to survive and prosper. The result is today's heavily technical workplace, where proficiency with complex phone systems, fax machines, and often networked computers are basic essentials. CISCO Systems, retailer of computer networking hardware and software, sells more than $7 million a day through electronic commerce alone. As if to demonstrate the potential of its technology products, CISCO has hired over nine thousand new employees since 1995 while at the same time saving "$270 million a year in staff, software distribution and paperwork costs" ("Cisco"). As of February 1998, nearly 20 million people regularly access the Internet from their workplace ("Relevant"). However, these much-praised advancements impose dramatic changes in what is expected from workers and where and how they go about their jobs.