Tech trends are less about what gadgets do, and instead, how the general public puts them to use. In the same way, how office technology impacts the workplace doesn't hinge on the make or model of the devices and equipment in question, but rather on how employees receive them. These items don't come with efficiency or cost-effectiveness built in. To get the most out of the technology they integrate into daily operations, businesses must be sure the things they purchase align with their objectives.
As more and more companies incorporate things like smartphones and touch-screen tablets into the mix, they undoubtedly avoid a steep learning curve since workers enjoy these same devices at home for personal use. However, many business-minded individuals – managers and employees alike – worry that the incorporation of certain technology in the workplace can tamper with productivity.
But the facts are clear – these gizmos are here to stay. How can companies balance the personal and the professional when it comes to in-house technology?
How distracted are we?
First, before we can assess how best to overcome workplace technology distractions to encourage more productive use, let's first try to understand how distracted we really are.
At the tail end of 2014, a Pew Research Center poll asked full- and part-time working adults whether digital tools hurt more than they helped in the office. Not surprisingly, only 7 percent said Internet-connected devices and email hindered productivity, while nearly half of respondents said their productivity improved. The short list of benefits include increased amount of hours worked and greater external communication, as well as more flexibility in a day's work.
We must take this poll with a few grains of salt. Just because employees say they aren't distracted by workplace technology doesn't mean employers shouldn't take measures to prevent distractions from occurring in the first place. That said, managers and supervisors must be careful when regulating the technology they expect their employees to use. In some instances, their decisions can be more damaging than the idle time they're trying to stifle.
"Job performance has an inexorable tie to choice."
What drives workplace productivity?
Workplace technology puts freedom and choice in the hands of employees. Yes, these employees have the freedom to choose to play video games on an office tablet instead of filling out spreadsheets, but that's only part of it.
According to Diane Hoskins, co-CEO of design firm Gensler, job performance has an inexorable tie to choice. Her design and architectural firm studied employees who have open-ended options in regard to how, when and where they work versus those who don't. The results showed these choices increase an employee's individual occupational and employer satisfaction, job performance and the company's ability to innovate.
As such, employers attempting to cut out distractions from the source should focus on aspects that don't limit employee choice. Micromanaging what employees do with these devices can completely negate the reasons why a company invests in them in the first place: to spur engagement and provide a new generation of workers with the resources they need to handle the data-intensive jobs of today. Monitoring appropriate website use isn't going to slow productivity, but onboarding office technology without the proper applications – like virtual private networks and a broadband connection – will.
Office technology industry piece brought to you by Marlin Equipment Finance, a nationwide provider of commercial lending solutions for small and mid-size businesses. Marlin's equipment financing and loan products are offered directly to businesses, and through third party vendor programs, which include manufacturers, distributors, independent dealers and brokers in the security, food services, healthcare, information technology, office technology and telecommunications sectors.