Technology is evolving fast, it is obviously having significantimpacts on the work place in current years. Technology could be defined in manyways, it could mean different to different people.
For me, I would definetechnology as the application of human knowledge to develop new scientific waysin order to solve practical problems. It can be further divided into twocategories, material and social technologies. Material technology refers toitems that physically exist, such as machinery and electronic devices, they arebuilt to help humans to perform activities faster more efficiently. Socialtechnologies are those that facilitate social interactions, these can includedigital networks, computer and information systems.
Whether technology isacting as a force for greater control at work or greater freedom from work variesfrom different perspectives. People’s opinions could be dependent on the natureof the work, the level in a particular hierarchy or the attitude to work. Generally,leaders and managers would see and use technology as a tool for greater controlover the employees, while the employees would try to make use of technology toobtain more freedom at work. Main body Over the past few years, forecasts suggestthat the number of mobile devices is overtaking the global population,companies have become increasingly reliant on cloud technology and moved moreand more resources to the cloud.
With the help of cloud computing, work hasbecome less of a burden to employees. In the past, IT departments spent a lotof time on equipment maintenance. With cloud technology, companies abandonedtheir data centers and stored data in the cloud. It saves the hassle ofinstalling, maintaining, and updating, as well as removing security concerns. ITteams can focus more on core projects, while executives can spend more of theirtime on planning and strategic thinking. The national security officer ofMicrosoft claimed that their cloud computing has brought benefits to both thepublic and private sectors in terms of efficiency and cooperativity.
In recent years, companies from varies industries have discoveredthat time is a new basis of competition (Stalk, Evans and Shulman, 1992),especially when completing in a global market. Thereare three principal ways in which information technology can contribute tofreedom in the workplace. Firstly, by removing restrictions on where and whentasks are performed, thus altering the time and place of work. Secondly,collecting and processing information faster thus speeding up the pace of work,Lastly, by enabling a quick response to changing market situations. Technologies have significantly giventhe employees more time and freedom in completing their work. It is notdifficult to have observed that collaboration between work colleagues is nowcloser.
Sharing and comparing documents, proposals, and presentations are alldone in a flash, no matter where they are, allowing workmates to keep abreastof the latest changes. As Mckendrick (2016) points out, cloud technology promotes self-management and innovation, employees now havemore freedom to choose the location and time to work in their interest. Workcan be done on all kinds of devices, such as smartphones and laptops since theyare capable of synchronization. Hundreds ofapplications use the cloud to connect employees’ smartphones to officenetworks, employees would then be able to record any new ideas or thoughts totheir work more freely wherever they are. On the otherside, technology could lead to greater control at work. A survey conducted in HongKong has showed that 42.
7 percent of the participant think that technology hasbeen taking freedom away from work. The main complaint is that they can nolonger off their communications devices completely, having to keep theirdevices on during sleep or vacation. Advances in science and technology havepushed up the 24/7 work ethic. Also, sinceemployees are now working through cloud technology, managers can potentiallytrack and trace the amount of time spent working in the office, or evenchecking if the employees are working at any specific moment through a seriesof regulatory technologies.
Such transparencycould lead to coercive control, “a negative kind of ‘power and politics’ which privilegescertain functions and senior managers over others”. (Kanter,1993; Perrow,1986).This enormous power of regulatory technology would most likely cause theformation of the structure of domination in work organizations. An obviousexample would be the call center, where there are facilities for surveillancepurposes. Middle managers could randomly pick and listen to calls on a regularbasis to monitor the quality of the calls and check on the efficiency of theworkers. Other methods may include Scripts, Queuing Systems, Average Handling Times,Off-Line Time etc.
Workers in thecall center are being watched all the time, they are also supervised throughthe recording of number of calls made, the time spent on calls and the lengthof breaks taken. In Woodcock (2017)’s words, who have spent six months workingin a call center for researching purposes, those are measured precisely to thesecond, employees would have no room forresistance under this kind of total control. While these measures aim to ensurethat workers allocate time and resources efficiently appropriately, employees feeldistrust, since they are being watched all the time. In this case, managers haveobtained greater force of control at work through technologies.
Underthe influence of automation technology, the global labor market is changing, “robotsare rapidly replacing jobs we once assumed could never be replaced” (Fleming,2015). Modern technology has begun toenter all kinds of sectors, many jobs have been automated, increasingly typesof repetitive work are replaced by machines, which poses a threat to people’semployment. The choice of occupations is diminishing, meaning less options ofwork is available for the future generations. Additionally, the on-goingtechnology revolution would mean that the younger generations are almostcertainly not going to have a permanent and secured occupation, they have toadapt to a job market where there are little stability and job security. Assuch, the freedom of choosing their occupations would potentially be lesser asthey would have loss the option of taking up a low skilled job.
In contrast, Asurvey carried out in 2017 has shown that 57% of Americans believe that theirwork is unlikely to be replaced by automation over the next 10 years. At thesame time, 56% said that automation has improved their work. For example, manypeople believe that automation technology has made their work safer andsimpler, they are now able to complete their work faster with the help ofmachines and robots, leaving them with more spare time to pursue their personalinterests. What has been identified in the report isthat people with different education backgrounds respond differently to thesequestions. Under the assumption that employees with a better educationbackground are more likely to be working in sectors where knowledge is thedominant skill, future technologies are less able to replace high end workssuch as consulting and financial forecasting.
Instead, the advancement intechnology could mean that even more job options are available to them, as newideas and new forms of work could be developed through the cooperation withmachines. A recent study by Oxford University found that nearly half of alljobs in the United States would be automated and people would be at risk oflosing their jobs. Technology has become an important cause of changes in theway companies operate. Under arelational approach, application of technology does not separate technologies,users and contexts of use, but sees them in their mutual interactions. (Attila,Praolin and Schubert 2015).
Subsequently, high end sector workerswould experience increasing freedom at choosing their occupations.