Does Increased Dependence on Laptops, Cell Phones and PDAs Hurt Employee Productivity?
On Wednesday, March 21st, my Manhattan College students tackled the controversial HR topic on our agenda: the intersection between technology and productivity.
With the rise of tablets and PDAs and the universal presence of mobile devices in meeting rooms and offices, it’s natural for managers to wonder where this trend is taking us. Most of these gadgets rode in on the promise of increased convenience and personal productivity, which sounds great for users and consumers. But what about those who hire these users and consumers, the ones who pay a yearly or hourly rate for labor and efforts that aren’t always supported by the latest mobile widget? Could these devices actually be reducing employee productivity and keeping employers from getting their money’s worth?
Specifically: Should managers question the value of employee hyper-connectivity? Or should they encourage any and all mobile technology in the workplace, in keeping with what seems to be the style of our age? The debate will likely establish itself onto two camps, the believers and the skeptics.
What’s good for the employee is good for the business, and if the employee can reduce the time spent managing his personal life, he’ll naturally devote that extra time to work. If he can find a restaurant, check in with a childcare provider, get directions to a meeting location, and touch base with a client (friend, accountant, personal trainer, etc.) on the go, then he can gain control over his sprawling responsibilities and focus his full attention on the job. Even better, he’s always reachable. With the latest mobile device in hand, he can be contacted at home, on weekends, and even on vacation. This can work to an employer’s advantage in countless ways.
Sure it may be possible to contact an employee at home on a weekend, but does this foster a healthy working relationship? And sure the employee can use her mobile device to take notes during the meeting…but is that what she’s really doing? An employee’s ability to stream a movie while waiting in line at the deli doesn’t actually help her employer do anything, and there’s no guarantee she’ll turn the movie (or YouTube video or media feed) off during business hours. Without the device, her hands are free, her eyes are on the task at hand, and her mind is focused on one (work-related) project at a time.
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