It is easy to see why there are concerns related to the allowance of smartphones, tablets, and other smart devices in the workplace. With every privilege, you don’t have to look too far to find instances of abuse. Employers understand this and many are implementing restrictions to diminish the risk of productivity reduction; they are playing off the potential downsides, which are far fewer than the benefits.
A study done this year by CareerBuilders, which surveyed 2,186 hiring managers and 3,031 full-time workers, reveals just how technologically cautious employers are. The majority of them, at 55 percent, consider smartphones to be the biggest time-wasters in the workplace, while about 30 percent claimed that business suffered, either in the form of productivity or the employee-boss relationship. It’s clear that employers are fearful of productivity erosion, as they should be—it’s their job to maintain high levels of productivity! The key that’s often missed is how to do so without also eroding employee morale in the day and age of the millennial. Not only do the kids of the 90s, such as myself, now bring variously-sized screens into the workplace, but we even strap them to ourselves as well!
Within the last couple of years, with the launch of Google’s Android Wear and Apple’s Watch OS platforms, wearable technology has made its way into the mainstream market. These wearable platforms, especially, have made it decently affordable to keep people connected, effortlessly, no matter where they go, and this includes the workplace. Even if you set aside these devices, there’s still an impressive number of people bringing social technology tools into the workplace. More than eight in ten people have their smartphones on them while at work, and about as many keep them within eyesight. Portable personal computing devices are not going anywhere. In fact, they are becoming more prominent, and this trend will only continue the deeper we delve into the twenty-first century. To ignore this fact is to perpetuate a growing morale crusher in the modern workplace. Far too many employers are doing just that, blindly walking towards the tarpit of disaster.
There is too much pretending that smartphones are still catching on in the world, when in fact these devices have evolved to become something of a prerequisite for life. There’s simply too much defiance of this fact in the face of the evidence, evidence that is probably sitting in your pocket right now.
If smart devices are as prominent and employers as resistant as the data proposes, the question becomes this: where is the middle ground? Can this technology be implemented in the modern workplace in a manner that’s both constructive and practical? I advocate that the answer is, resoundingly, yes.
Applications are worthwhile implementations
An obvious advantage of the allowance of this technology in the workplace is the connectivity and productivity benefits possible with the building and implementation of applications. We’ve all heard the expression, “there’s an app for that,” and today that’s true more than ever before. There are some amazing, and useful, apps out there aside from Angry Birds and Pokemon Go.
It should excite executives that we have this capability right at our fingertips. Google has created Google for Work, where their “products help teams work together, and companies innovate faster with the scale and security of Google infrastructure.” According to Google, more than two million businesses use their Google for Work platform, and over 60 percent of the Fortune 500 companies have applied it in their various workplaces. Microsoft has been the standard in production programs for computers, but now they have brought their ecosystem to the mobile platform. The Microsoft Office Suite is now available, as applications, for the leading mobile operating systems iOS and Android, which combined, as of February of this year, control about 98 percent of the smartphone market.
Even going beyond the productivity giants, there are plenty of solutions to be had. There are apps that allow users to access their work desktops remotely, so long as they have an internet connection. These apps, such as TeamViewer or GoToMyPC, have created a way to keep people connected to their work tasks from anywhere, instantly. With Evernote, an app that is usable on computers and smart devices; notes, ideas, project timelines and details, etc., can all be recorded and saved to the cloud. These are accessible and shareable anytime, anywhere. So whether it’s an app for the your time clock system, or a things to do app like Wunderlist, there are many work application solutions that are available right now to keep employers and employees connected in a creative and practical manner.
There are many businesses that are implementing applications for specific work tasks, which have increased productivity and abolished the potential for human error. In the January/February 2015 issue of Industrial Weigh and Measure, one such example is outlined in the article “How Weighbox™ is Automating the Pack and Ship Industry.” In the case of counting scales, a cross-platform software solution was developed by the company Genweigh, LLC that drastically improved the efficiency of these scales. Their solution, Weighbox, “allows a ‘Made In The USA’ counting scale to be controlled through an iPhone, Android, PC, Tablet, (any mobile device) allowing the scale to communicate wirelessly to a company inventory management database and more.” Using Weighbox, these scales essentially become fully-functioning computers capable of far more than they were standing on their own, and the utilization of the app “is saving labor, time, eliminating points of human error, integrating various third party workflow solutions and doing all of it through modern, sleek, easy-to-use touch screen interface.”
Give social media a look
Another benefit of these tools in the workplace is one that might not immediately be viewed as a benefit, but rather as a hindrance: the great nuisance to employers, social media. At first glance, social media is nothing more than a time-waster, or maybe a time-annihilator. Chat, political opinion-posting, video-watching and meme-viewing are a few of the initial mental descriptors that probably come to mind when social media is mentioned. There is actually a good side to these sorts of sites, however.
It may not seem like it, but social media can actually improve productivity when, like most things on the planet, applied in moderation. A recent study done by The Muse discovered that people are most productive when working in 52-minute spurts, followed by 17-minute breaks. Tools like social media can provide head-clearing and a mental rest from work-induced stress.
It’s true that oftentimes when an inch is given a mile will be taken, but a concept rarely embraced by people who hold authority is that instances of abuse should be handled case by case. Much like blanket statements, blanket disciplines can suffocate growth. This isn’t the only advantage to allowing social media at work, either. At my last employment, a private group in Facebook was utilized to discuss shift details, deadlines and promotional information, etc.. This enhanced and simplified communication between employers and employees.
Exploit the apps!
The message to employers across America should be this: when it comes to technology in the workplace, do not attempt to ban it – exploit it! In today’s world you simply cannot ban technology anyway; it is inescapable. But you absolutely can use it for the betterment of the workplace environment. Start using apps, or if one is not readily available that suits your company’s particular needs, then build one that makes it easier or more effortless to get tasks done. In connection lies growth, and in the disconnect is found the obsolete.
Hunter Bowles is a seasoned writer from Nashville, Tennessee. He has been writing for over 10 years. This is one of his passions, alongside writing, playing, and recording music.