Three ways technology has changed how we work

We’re never going to be content. Technology has seen to that. There’s always going to be something new to make a mockery of the old. Since we started pumping our air with the innovative spirit, business as usual hasn’t been business as usual. We’ve been shaking up the dusty establishment, discarding the detritus and devising new ways to work and play. Even change as idiosyncratic as having an official work day start at 9:05 (which a tech start-up hit the news for, by the way) shows how we’re refusing to accept any of the old norms. We’re always looking to fine tune the frequencies and turn the screws.

Some of its down to new-age thinking – like the standing desks the cool kids are now using – or youthful work cultures that denounce shirt and ties as garments of the non-progressive, and sandals and shorts the flavour of champions. That’s the slow transformation that occurs day-to-day, and which we don’t even notice until our beige walls and office partitions have been replaced by bright colours and motivational quotes. 

But technology’s impact is also more direct:

1. Automation. Whispers of automation have haunted industry workers for years. So much of what we call ‘ground work’ is gradually being adopted by dutiful robots. Low skill blue collar jobs are disappearing, replaced by a host of well-behaved machines that are unburdened by the contemplation of existence or equality (until we teach them to think and love) and that are, regretfully, proving more efficient. This isn’t a great future for those whose jobs are at risk – but for everyone else the automation of repetitive tasks promises to provide huge time-saving benefits.

Warehouses will be manned by a single maintenance manager daydreaming away; our hair will be cut by conversation-free automatons following pre-set styles; and our food cooked by creatively deficient, but mechanically brilliant chefs. A future of continual delegation to our automotive friends will surely change how we work – and even how we drive to work.   

2. No more constraints. This message is brought to you by an appreciative freelancer – who has the freedom to write and work wherever he chooses. This is the era of the ‘it’s cool to wear your pyjamas’ ethos that’s very much at home in the start-up culture. We no longer must abide by a fixed schedule. We can even be night dwellers if we so desire (and if it’s not prohibitive of team collaborations). With so much available over the Internet, and software services such as Trello and GoToMeeting as our virtual offices, there’s little reason to venture into the physical realm. Social media has proven human contact is overrated.

3. Metrics are everywhere. Technology helps us keep track of everything we do. Literally, everything. For those sensitive to the possibility of a George Orwell-esque work culture developing, this collated awareness of how we’re performing (correlated alongside system and operation performance) pits us all as cogs in an unpleasant machine. Whilst not all employers are eager to measure the movements, pulses and toilet breaks of each of their employees, they’re not without the means to. Each of us produces data and information, all of which can be used to assess employer behaviour and work patterns. And this is only going to increase once the IoT kicks in, and the amount of time a kettle is used can be graphed to determine ways to finally curb the English tea drinking habit.