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Are you routinely having work nightmares? – Stressing why IT matters

Updated: Aug 23, 2023

Routine is important. There’s much evidence that routines are fundamental for habit building. If you've ever kicked a habit, you’ll appreciate that simple tweaks to your routine can help achieve your new goal. For me, routine provides structure and comfort when going about my business. I know I’ve worked through activities that support me to feel confident, balanced and productive. Here are my observations about why it’s become so routine to be stressed at work.

An everyday communication crisis

Every day, people go to work amid a communication crisis. Technology has revolutionised how we communicate in work and at home. In work, it helped us to accelerate the volume of stuff we can do. But it hasn’t reduced our hours spent working. The cumulative impact of our increased productivity isn’t really being discussed and deliberated over in the way our society needs.

We have become complacent about the impact of overwork, underwork, the value of our work and our right to work. In the disruption, we lost track of what work activities really add value. And we’re struggling to re-evaluate what part of our identity is associated with our work. So many jobs push us to compromise our better judgement for pay security. But that payment doesn’t always offset the moral injury caused when you’re gagged – unable to talk freely about the value of our work.

Outside work, the explosion in technology has eaten into our human downtime. Life admin increasingly takes up much of our precious time. We live in an era where we can learn about almost anything in a few clicks. And we don't have to wait for the next instalment of high-octane entertainment. We’re the first era to have to nurture technology. Who would’ve predicted that carving out time to train your algorithm would be a self-care activity in the 2020s? Or that machines would be able to physically sort the contents of your rubbish bin, and children would struggle with gaming addiction.

Ill-managed tech shows why we’ll always need the human touch

The impact of ill-managed tech at work reaches well beyond the ‘laptop classes’ (who, in reality, never switch off and have working hours well beyond the call of duty).

If you’re an NHS anaesthetist using the new HIVE system, you’ll know the painful transition that comes with a system that clips the wings of people who care. And this is after spending years at the mercy of computer-operated workstations unfit for work.

Two nights in hospital – just after the introduction of the HIVE system – reaffirmed why I care so much about the role of technology in work. Picture the scenario. A nurse has prepared her anxious patient for a scary operation. The nurse receives a call from the operating theatre because the operation planned for that day isn’t going to happen. As the nurse approaches the patient to break the news, they find the patient frantic and in tears. The patient already knows the operation has been cancelled because they received a text message alert from the system.

We’re rolling out technology on mass and treating people like barcodes in a factory system. No one’s really addressing the backlog of people with needs, who’re missing from the stats.

If you’re a ticket officer at a train station, your job satisfaction has been eroding for years. Because you can’t resolve problems with tickets bought online – brokered by businesses whose systems you can’t access. Can machines really replace your daily routines? A gentleman, who’s sat on the platform as three trains have come and gone, is grateful you noticed and interrupted his dark thoughts. You may have saved his life with a conversation.

While drafting this blog, the House of Commons announced the closure of hundreds of train station ticket offices. It doesn’t necessarily mean loss of ticket office people and jobs. There’s a new job in the pipeline – a Journey Maker. It sounds alright in theory and could be a great adoption of technology. But what about the safe, warm, sheltered space that will be lost? Instead, there will be nomadic platform wanders with devices strapped to their bodies. What about providing our workforce with shelter from the rain, and a place to make a cuppa, in a safe and welcoming space that customers know how to locate?

The office

Let’s think about the workspace where technology is having the most devastating impact on people. The office.

The office connects administrative excellence and the support of multi-disciplinary teams. They connect via systems that are no longer tangible paper trails – that you can see getting out of shape and disorganised. Records of what has been planned and delivered is now stored in the cloud. We’re expected to navigate client portals and customer spaces. And to whizz around their information systems like switching from a right-hand drive vehicle to left-hand whilst crossing the border of Thailand into Cambodia.

The precious work that happens in offices manifests in activities for the whole workforce. Way beyond physical reach and with impact for people and places beyond our comprehension. The planning and organising that goes with operating, selling and marketing relies on the tools we use to communicate. Initiatives like the B Corp movement and good employment charters are very worthwhile. They promote a way of doing things for the benefit of society and the wider world. But they require us to keep more records and measure more facets of our work activities. For people, this often requires more energy and additional cognitive load.

Data skills are at the heart of communication, project management, planning, organising, accountability and business development. These have changed with the advance of technology. Records are stored in vastly different spaces, using processing powers beyond the wildest dreams of our ancestors. Information is scraped from our devices and shared – sometimes fraudulently, but often with our unwitting permission. Do you read privacy statements in their entirety before accepting cookies? And we can add biometrics to the list of trackable and traceable data points that technology can do wondrous things with.

When will technology actually improve our working routines?

Every business model is theoretically scalable. And quantum computing can do a lot of strenuous lifting – from automating internal decision-making to locating customers across the web. An endless supply of problems to solve can keep us in business forever. But when will this technology actually improve our working routines? When will it address the balance for fair and honest work?

Are you working on something that’s emotionally scalable? Are you building a knowledge hub uniquely special – the product of your business's unique proposition and creativity? One your colleagues can navigate easily. That informs valuable and caring decisions with lasting and positive impact on the world we inhabit.

Computers can help to create knowledge libraries. They can spot patterns humans are incapable of observing. They can help find our blind spots. But we need better foundations before we begin the liberation journey that frees us from overwork, duplication and wasted resources.

For this, we must improve our relationships with the technology that already exists. We must revisit the developments that weren’t adopted and reinvent processes with people at the heart of systems. We must layer technology into our activities to create better ways of working for people.

How ivity can help

If you want to evolve your business processes and benefit from technologies to do that, our data relationship assessment is a great place to start. It will accelerate your adoption of enjoyable technology.

We do data differently. We do it to address both present and future data applications. And for a deeper understanding of things meaningful to us as humans and the future of work.

Speak to us about your data relationship by using our contact page.

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