Workers vs. Robots: Balancing Technology in the Workplace

Technology Currently

Exponential growth in the technology industry continues well into the 21st century. As the 2000s came in, the Kyocera VP-210 stepped up, the world’s (arguably) first camera phone. The device could take and hold 20 front-facing photos and send them by email. The camera lens was 2 inches and 110,000-pixels. Today, the iPhone 12 is capable of taking a 12-million-pixel photo, at only an inch in diameter. In just over a decade, camera phones went from pixelated to professional and its not the only area of technology that’s been seeing massive improvements. Skype first came out in 2003, normalising video calls for the average person. At the same time, it was plagued with grainy webcams and a plethora of delays and connection issues. Today, seeing a friend online is a given. Whether its through facetime, zoom, or now the metaverse.


With all this technological growth, how have businesses been adapting? Businesses have been quick to implement all that technology has to offer, though admittedly with a delay. Yet as the tech industry continues, the technology provided becomes more and more futuristic. Almost nearing a point of saturation. Today, for offices wanting to implement new tech, there’s a plethora of options. We want to answer the question: what’s actually worth it?

Technology in the Workplace


Overvalued Tech

It seems that every second in tech there’s something new. As the major tech companies of the world get richer, the projects taking shape in tech get zanier. Tech billionaires follow their futuristic whims with mountains of cash flowing in behind them. The need to be more innovative, more forward, and more unique drives some pretty out-there tech. The chase for VR, a fully immersed digital world, and linking people up with their computers, are all taking place as big names in tech pull us into a science-fiction novel. Simultaneously, entrepreneurs are trying to brainstorm their own ways to utilise this technology in their businesses. But can they? Or should they?


Over the past few years, we’ve seen some new techs come into offices, but has it been worth the hype?


1. Virtual assistants

Digital workplace app Beekeeper listed smart virtual assistants as one of their top 5 tools to transform [a] business. Is this true, realistically? Virtual assistants sound like a budget-friendly way to get everyone in the office some help and boost productivity. Yet, is it too good to be true? In 2021 businesses were expected to spend an approx. $3.5 billion on them. Then, what’s the likelihood that these investments paid off? Slim. As great as Virtual Personal Assistants (VPA’s) are in theory, it’s not always the same in practice. AI technology isn’t 100% there yet and it’s a big part of the reason why digital assistants are failing. There are limits to what a VPA can do — today they are just as prone to errors as anyone else.

Despite the fact that VPA’s are being built into every smart speaker and phone, only 64% of U.S. adults use them. For some, a VPA might be just what their looking for, and there are people who have reported frequently using their voice assistants. However, it seems for the majority of us the technology isn’t quite there. Implementing them on a large-scale into the office might risk wasted recourses.


2. Wearable sensors

Here’s an upcoming trend getting talked about in Forbes — wearables for the workplace. Wearables have picked up interest in recent years, boasting sanitation and productivity benefits. Employees can open doors seamlessly without contact, helping to create a more sanitary workplace. A benefit that is particularly relevant in todays post-covid world. However, many institutions already have contactless solutions for moving around the office such as a simple office pass. So, what’s the real benefit of a wearable? It’s effect on productivity. The Grocer in the UK has been implementing wearables since 2004 and saw a 18% decrease in the number of employees needed to run a full store.  Sound like a dream? Unfortunately, employees aren’t as excited.

A large part of the productivity achieved from wearables is due to increased employee surveillance. In an Ireland distribution centre Tesco workers wear armbands that track their precise movement. The armband reports back on speed and efficiency, creating a more stressful work environment. The increased amount of data storage also introduces a plethora of ethical issues. In the long run, these issues risk catching up to companies as their own company culture takes a hit.


3. Virtual reality

The metaverse and virtual offices have been gaining traction, but are they worth the hype? In a recent CiVS insight we discussed employee reactions to VR for the workplace. As well as expert opinions on the health impacts of VR technologies. The conclusion we came to — there’s a lot of push with not much benefit. If you’d like to read about this in more depth, you can take a look at the article here.

Technology in the Workplace


Tech worth investing in

If we’re not going to be putting money into VPA’s, wearables, or VR, where should our funds go? There’s lots of places where investment in technology is warranted and we’ve got our favourites below.


1. Secure group messaging systems

The prevalence of cyber attacks across industries is only growing as data pools became richer and more common. That’s why its always worth investing in the security of your company. Employees should have access to a full suite of secure digital communication tools to work effectively. Investing in a strong internal communication platform such as Slack and Beekeeper, will help keep your companies information secure. Simultaneously, investing into office communication can lead to future productivity gains.


2. Upgraded Hybrid Meeting Rooms

A hybrid meeting room refers to any meeting room that has the proper equipment to handle hybrid meetings. That is those meetings which take place between on-and-off-site workers. As working from home measures continue to increase in normality, hybrid meetings become more and more common. If you’re meeting room isn’t equipped with the proper camera, sound, or display quality to handle such meetings, its time for a change. Here’s some ideas from TechInteractive on what to invest in for a high-quality hybrid meeting room.


3. Machine Learning

If you’re not thinking about machine learning in a big way, you’re falling behind. Machine learning can help automate a range of tasks within your business. Some businesses have been using it to understand their customer base by analysing customer actions, transactions, and social sentiment data. Others have been focused on using it to aid with supply chains, fraud, and administrative tasks. Regardless of your business’s industry, there’s some value to be found in machine learning.


4. Visual Collaboration Tools

If you’re working in a creative industry, or with a high number of online employees, platforms like Zoom just won’t cut it. For seamless online collaboration, turn to more visual tools. Miro works like an online whiteboard where users can freely add and brainstorm ideas in a dynamic and flexible way. It helps to move remote employees out of a rigid thinking structure and open up communication in new ways. With big names like Dell and Cisco hopping on board, there’s clear value in a more visual way of talking online.

Technology in the Workplace


Are your employees looking for a technological upgrade?

Technology will only ever be as good as you make it. Implementing new technologies into a workforce that doesn’t have the skills to utilise it will result in a waste of resources. Additionally, if workers aren’t interested in new technology then you are at risk of hurting morale. An employee survey can help you to assess the attitudes towards technology in the office. This can help you decide how, when and what technology you should implement. It avoids lost funds from introducing new technology that will never be fully utilised.


Using an employee survey to develop a sound strategy before jumping into action will help save on long-term costs and avoid making unnecessary or damaging risks. At CiVS we make it our job to deliver the best employee surveys, with modern software and a smart team, you can’t go wrong. We work consultatively with each of our clients to make sure their surveys will run smoothly and develop useful insights.


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