Has Technology Changed the Way We Work?
A world-wide problem is creating employment opportunities in a country where an employer’s requirements are changing. The workplace and the profile of the typical worker have undergone fundamental changes in the new millennium.
Employers now expect new recruits at all levels to be digitally literate, which is to be familiar with digital equipment and applications like word-processing and using digital sources to find information. This requirement has arisen from what has been called the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
It has been driven in the main by changes in technology bringing changes in the way we interact and work in their wake. The effects have been profound.
It is evident that the major influences have included:
Internet of Things
One of the biggest changes in the way we work has been the Internet of Things (IoT) journey that is now is well underway.
There are many definitions of IoT, but simply put it is connecting anything and everything to the Internet and to everything else. This will create connectivity and relationships between things themselves, between things and people and between people.
The Internet of Things has the potential to be the largest network of connected devices, including people. Gartner estimates that in 2020 there will be 26 billion connected devices, but some commentators put the number as high as 100 Billion.
The impact of the IoT will have a profound effect on business models, rendering many current models ineffective and dooming them to extinction, and meaning major changes are needed for how many businesses operate.
And it’s not just IT. IoT will affect all businesses from Manufacturing to Finance to Healthcare, from Building Management to Personal Security. The workplace we all know and love will fundamentally change over the next few years, as will the way we carry out our lives.
We will manage our intelligent homes, switching devices like ovens and washing machines off and on, and managing the internal climate by operating environmental controls, using a smart device from the office or on the way home.
Our kitchens will monitor our health and automatically order and pay for replacement items. They will communicate with biometric control systems monitoring our bodies (FitBit anyone), retrieving our vital signs and choosing the most appropriate nutrients. Wearables will provide second to second monitoring of key health indicators.
Transport has already started to fundamentally change with fly-by-wire aircraft and driverless vehicles.
On the shop floor, manual workers have been replaced by robots, and the worker now manages the manufacturing process from a PC, rather than by hitting things with hammers as in the past. Manufacturing Planning is now largely done using computer software and automatically integrates with sales forecasts and firm orders, leading to raw material ordering processes.
For most businesses today, digital literacy in all levels of the workforce is not an option.
Bring Your Own Device (“BYOD”) and the movement of existing manual processes to a digital platform is already with us. Businesses are increasingly implementing digital workflow management to allow the administrative workload to be managed without major increases in staff numbers.
Voice over IP has been adopted by most organisations because of the cost benefits and cost-effective service benefits. At national and international levels, video conferencing is markedly reducing communications costs.
On the shop-floor, manual processing has been replaced by Computer-Controlled Devices, and Artificial Intelligence-driven processing using robots is making great inroads into traditional manual manufacturing processes.
The use of smart devices as the primary communications tool and the perceived need to always be connected to social media has driven the proliferation of WiFi connectivity. In social terms, it has meant that people now expect immediate communications all the time, everywhere.
In the workplace smart devices with a soft-phone application are replacing the traditional desktop handsets and allowing people to be contacted wherever in the workplace they happen to be.
The increasing availability of free WiFi in public spaces has made it much easier for the mobile road warrior to carry out business from a hotel or coffee shop in the local mall.
One thing is certain, the workplace and the way we work in it in the coming years will be fundamentally different. We need to be prepared.