Technology in the Workforce and the Rise of the Nontraditional Work Environment

Technology is changing the way people do business. With applications that create faster overall processes and improved communication, the key to success is often accomplished through the use of the right technology. Managers must be aware of what these changes are and how technology is facilitating them. There are a number of growing trends that demonstrate how the workforce is shifting towards nontraditional work environments and which technologies are being used to support these environments. Remote employees working in virtual work environments are becoming more commonplace in today’s workforce, whether it is through outsourcing work to other countries or US employees based in different geographic locations than their teams/managers. No matter which type of nontraditional work environment, it is clear that technology is a crucial key to success.

There are a number of different tools that a remote or virtual employee can use. Working in teams with people located in different geographic locations requires extra attention on communication. Managers must make sure that remote employees feel included and equal to their non-remote peers. In order to do so, there are a number of technologies that help bridge the geographic gap. Video conferencing allows individuals who are in different physical locations to interact as if they were all in the same place. Having a round-table meeting over video conference allows individuals to express themselves through gestures and expressions. It also creates a sense of familiarity amongst employees since it is a social environment. Another tool is web conferencing, which allows people on different computers to simultaneously view one person’s screen. This allows individuals to host a meeting where they can present to a large group and not have to send out loose documents. Another online tool that allows people in different locations to communicate is Instant Messenger. AIM (AOL Instant Messenger), Gchat (Google Chat) and Facebook Chat all allow you to communicate in real time via text with many other individuals simultaneously.

While these technologies have many benefits, a word to the wise is to be aware of everything that comes along with the use of technology in the workforce. On the positive side, technologies like video conferencing and web conferencing allow many different people to get together in one virtual location. Being able to type at the rate of a normal conversation (through an instant messenger program like AIM) also allows people from far distances to communicate. However, both of these positive benefits have the potential to be negative as well. Video and web conferencing can sometimes be difficult to set up and if the Internet is down you often lose access to many of those tools. Typing a conversation can also lead to things taken out of context because you lose tone and expression. Overall, technology can be used successfully as long as individuals are mindful of the potential roadblocks.

Have you seen nontraditional roles emerging in your work environment? What technologies does your company use (or have you personally used) to help you stay connected to your peers?

6 thoughts on “Technology in the Workforce and the Rise of the Nontraditional Work Environment

  1. I really like this post, as it truly represents the way the workplace has evolved over the years. While in the past (back when I first entered the workforce out of college), conference calls and AOL or Yahoo messenger were the only ways to reach out to remote colleagues. Nowadays, I find myself still using IM software such as Google Chat or Skype Chat, but I also use video conferencing through Skype or even collaboration tools like Microsoft Lync or SharePoint. Also, from a technology perspective, the ability to see live demos of products are crucial, which can be accomplished using Live Meeting or a screen sharing utility. Obviously all of this is dependent on an Internet connection, but if the connection is missing, the fallback is always the traditional option of a telephone conference call.

  2. This post is very relevant to todays’ business environment as more companies become global and operate on different continents and different time zones. My company uses a lot of video conferencing especially for team meetings. As airfare becomes more expensive, video conferencing is a great way to conduct a meeting with everyone being able to see each other. In my company we have used web conferencing as well. As a quick example, last week we had all employees meeting at my company, but I could not go down to the conference room, so I simply logged-on and watched the presentations online at my desk, while working. I’m sure more and more companies will utilize technology to conduct meetings, as the cost of travel gets more and more expensive.

  3. A very relevant port for today’s work environment. I am very familiar with instant messaging and video conferencing where I work and have found that they are extremely useful tools for global companies that want their employees to have better access to peers at different sites. I agree that technology helps improve communication within a company, but maintaining the integrity of technology can be an issue. I have experienced many cases in which lag or connection issues have caused problems during instant message conversations or video conference calls. Also, for those who are less experienced with the technology there is a learning curve that goes along with setting everything (i.e. properly setting up video for a conference call).

  4. I’m actually fortunate that much of our work is still done face to face in fitness. Of course that means it’s not always the most productive use of time, but it also reminds my employees that their jobs cannot be automated through a computer. Your client needs to be in front of you, and strong communication skills are a MUST to make it in this industry. Yet of course we are e-mailing so much more than we used to. We are also using tools to enhance some of our departments, such as a board that connects to all of our spin bikes so that participants can “race” each other in a spin class. Or using fancier heart rate monitor watches to download your workouts into your app that also tracks your food intake. I think there are many tools that have come along to help enhance the fitness experience, as well as spark the interest of more individuals to get involved with fitness.

  5. I really enjoyed reading your post. I think its very interesting and touches on a topic that many people debate about. I often read or hear from people say that technology makes us dumb or that we have become cowardly because of the technology that we have today. I think technology can be a double edge sword. I personally love it, I like just emailing people in my job rather than picking up the phone. I work for a catering company, and they recently implemented this new system where you can actually sign up online to take shifts, which I really like rather than having a thousand text messages asking me to work.unfortunately my job doesn’t require much technology.

  6. I appreciated your analysis of different technologies that lend themselves to communication across businesses. With globalization bringing everyone closer together, it’s crucial to have these new innovations. At my previous internship, Google Drive was critical to the company’s success. Given the role travel had throughout the company, employees could work on documents and projects simultaneously while being across the country. Google provides an outlet where communication and production can be coordinated in a nontraditional environment. It reinforces your point that technology is crucial to success.

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