How technology has impacted the workplace: Riding the Wave of Change

Remember when typing used to be a marketable skill? There was a time when typing was a valuable asset that would be the highlight of any resume. Since then, the number of new technologies to improve efficiency and productivity in the workplace has been growing exponentially, with some technologies even becoming obsolete almost as quickly as they were adopted. As professionals working in this modern and fast-paced environment, we have to consistently keep up with the times and updating our skills, or risk becoming obsolete ourselves. To help you stay informed we at People Profilers have compiled a list of some recent changes and how they can have an impact on your professional development. Make sure you take note of our valuable tips and tricks, and be aware of the potential pitfalls, as any one of these could be the grain of rice to tip the scales in your favour at your next interview, or when you’re being considered for a promotion.

Increased Connectivity
The Internet has increased connectivity and productivity in the workplace, facilitating real time communication and file transfers over long distances. Additionally, online synchronisation services such as Dropbox or Google Drive enables multiple collaborators to work on the same project remotely. They create flexibility for employees to work from home or access resources outside the main office, such as when meeting clients. They also smoothen the process for any personnel changes as a project progresses, allowing easy handover of work. When coming back from a break or working on another project, tools which track changes can give you a quick recap of what has happened while you were away. Most commonly, the ability to work remotely is used to facilitate flexible work arrangements, for example where the employee has to care for young children. Employees are able to work remotely without having to travel long distances to the workplace, eliminating meaningless commute hours. Work hours are thus no longer limited to the classic 9-to-5. The increasing expectation for employees to respond outside of working hours has become one of the challenges which employees of today have to adapt to. The concept of work-life integration has gained popularity in recent years, eliminating the myth of work and life as competing forces. With greater autonomy over our work schedules, we can make more space in our lives for other things that matter to us, without it being at the expense of our work. Naturally, employees who are well trained in using these services will be seen as extremely valuable to employers. If you are not as tech-savvy or simply haven’t had the exposure to these services, there’s no need to panic! It is never too late to learn, and there are plenty of free resources on the internet that you can help you get started. For example, Google has lots of useful guides for their Google services, including Google Drive, available for free at their G Suite Learning Center. If you wish to get accreditation for certain skills, SkillsFuture also has programmes preparing individuals for the digital workplace of the future, payable with SkillsFuture Credit.

Increased connectivity: Potential Pitfalls
Now that you are a synchronisation service expert, you can work remotely and flexibly, providing a valuable service to your company and clients without compromising other aspects of your life. However, it is important to note the potential pitfalls of your new work-lifestyle. Electronic communication is efficient and effective, but it still lacks the personal touch. A physical office space creates synergy between employees and encourages the exchange of ideas and opinions. Clients will also appreciate your sincerity in meeting them in person when possible, especially in the modern age. Setting clear boundaries is crucial as you may be tempted, in your flexible work and living space and time, to use working time for personal things and vice versa. What was once a tool for increasing productivity, can also create complacency and distractions, leading to procrastination and decreased productivity. The fear of their employees falling prey to these pitfalls is also a reason why employers are reluctant to afford their employees autonomy in dictating their own flexible work arrangements. If you are fortunate enough to have such autonomy, it is imperative that you show your employer their trust will not be abused, and continue to produce quality work.

Increased productivity
New technology has also reduced the need for manpower for laborious tasks. For example, supermarket cashiers are being replaced with self-checkout counters, e-kiosks are popping up everywhere, and even the new Changi Airport Terminal 5 features a fully automated check-in process. For white-collar professionals, it has also become an expectation that much less time is spent on administrative tasks, as they now have at their disposal a myriad of productivity technological tools. Technology has managed to render entire careers obsolete, leading us to believe that humans are replaceable. On the flip side, this means that soft skills such as empathy, flexibility and critical thinking are now much more in-demand. As an employee or a job-seeker, showcasing your soft skills will greatly increase your employability and chances for promotion. The concept of soft skills may seem abstract and you may neglect to notice even when you have them or when you exercise them. One of the best ways to identify and develop your soft skills is to practice self-reflection and also seek feedback. Ask yourself about how you felt you have performed a task, what soft skills you have demonstrated, and how you may improve next time. Beginning to notice how your soft skills are at play in your daily work will significantly help you build on them.

Potential pitfalls: cybersecurity
The mass adoption of Internet and cloud services in today’s professional environments today has also opened up a new avenue of risk for theft, fraud and other cybercrimes. Cybersecurity is one of the biggest threats to commerce today, yet it continues to be an area that many companies continue to neglect. Despite powerful and robust technical protections employed by most companies, human failures continue to put them at risk. Contrary to popular belief, most cybercriminals are not tech whizz hackers that are able to break into encrypted servers with
furious typing. Instead, they rely on email impersonation scams, phishing, or robo-calls to trick victims into simply telling them passwords or sensitive information. In 2018, Singapore businesses lost nearly S$58 million to email impersonation scams.

To avoid being the leak in an otherwise tight ship, here are some tips on how to remain vigilant in an increasingly digitised workplace:
● Use strong passwords that cannot be guessed from certain information about you, such as your birth date or children’s names
● Watch out for phishing scams, always check the website URL, and email addresses of senders and recipients
● Never tell your password to anyone, and do not share online accounts used for work, even with another colleague
● Do not leave any devices unattended or unlocked, especially in public
● Follow any other cybersecurity protocols or policies as required by your employer

Technology has made things more convenient, but also brought about a new set of challenges. Change is inevitable. In today’s technologically integrated working world, an individual’s ability to pick up new technological skills and adapt to changes in the work environment is the key to survival.