Impact of Attitudes Towards Technology in the Workplace

5082 words (20 pages) Essay in Employment

23/09/19 Employment Reference this

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Executive Summary

 Over the years, technology has transformed our view of the world. Technological change has led to the creation of amazing products and services, putting connectivity to people and information from around the world at our fingertips.

 Technological innovation has made the discovery of many functional and utility devices like the computer and the smartphone possible. All these revolutionary changes have made our lives faster, easier and more fun. However, not everyone shares the same positive outlook when it comes to technology. People are often anxious or sceptical about the benefits that new technology brings.

The purpose of this research study is to understand the relationship between people’s responses to, and acceptance of, technology and its impact on their performance in the workplace and in their personal lives. The research studies international trends observed in academic journals, trade publications, commercial articles and social media, with a special focus on North American workplaces. A primary research study was also conducted in order to better understand people’s prevailing attitudes towards technology using a screening tool designed by internet : intelligence, an e-Business service provider who hypothesized that only 15% of people are actually comfortable with technology, whereas the remaining 85% are either anxious, avoidant and/or addicted to technology. The survey categorizes people into ‘anxious’, ‘avoidant’ and/or ‘addicted’ based on their relationship with technology. The sample population was chosen to be representative of the Canadian national full-time employee population. The report also includes a critical assessment of the survey tool employed and suggest possible alterations to the tool.

The study concludes that employees attitudes towards technology are impacted by the ease of use and the benefits that the technology brings. Primary research findings indicate 100% people are either anxious, addicted and/or avoidant of new technology. These attitudes have a direct impact on their performance in the workplace. While people may be addicted to familiar technologies such as smartphones and social media, they are also anxious and avoidant when they encounter new hardware or software. The study also reports that there exists a technology understanding gap in employees that often offsets the performance benefits of technology.

Introduction

 

Technology is changing everything around us at breakneck speed, in ways we have never imagined before. This introduction of new technologies has not just made our personal lives more convenient and connected but has taken over our professional lives as well.

Workplaces are nothing like they were a few years ago, they have been transformed by rapid technological advancement. In person meetings have turned into online conference calls, email inboxes are being replaced by team chat and collaboration apps and typewriters and registers have been replaced by word processor and spreadsheet software.

However, not everyone shares the same positive outlook towards new technologies. People are simultaneously enthusiastic and anxious or avoidant of technology. They are satisfied with the convenience that technology brings to their lives and at the same time confused by the complexity of using these new hardware or software. The advantages that this new technology offer such as more capacity, efficiency, & performance are at least partly offset by the time users have to spend learning to use it. In such situations, it is easy to feel like this technological change is happening to us and not for us.

The purpose of this research is to examine the impact of people’s responses to, and acceptance of, technology and its impact on their performance in the workplace and in their personal lives. The research looks at global trends observed in academic journals, trade publications, commercial articles and social media, with a special focus on North American workplaces. In order to better understand people ‘s prevailing attitudes towards technology, a primary research study was conducted using a screening tool designed by internet : intelligence, an e-Business service provider. The survey helps categorize people into one of two possible categories in terms of people’s use of, and attitudes about, technology: comfortable or uncomfortable. The following indicators cause people to be classified as uncomfortable with technology: ‘anxious’, ‘avoidant’ and/or ‘addicted’. It tests a hypothesis that claims only 15% of people are actually comfortable with technology, whereas the remaining 85% are either anxious, avoidant and/or addicted to technology.

The paper continues as follows. The next section reviews secondary data pertaining to people’s attitudes towards technology and resulting workplace performance. Subsequently, we describe the primary research methodology and present the research findings including

the data analysis and hypothesis testing. This is followed by an assessment of the screening tool. Finally, we draw conclusions regarding the connection between people’s relationship with technology and job performance and their personal lives based on the insights drawn from primary and secondary research.

Part 1 – Secondary Research

 

This section of the report includes a distillation of the prevailing beliefs related to how people’s attitude towards technology affects their performance at work and their personal lives based on insights drawn from commercial articles, academic journals, and trade and industry publications supplemented by research conducted using multiple social media vehicles. The report begins by looking at the relationship between employee’s attitudes or ‘affect’ and work performance, it then looks at factors that affect people’s attitude and acceptance of new technology and their prevailing beliefs and finally, the potential impacts of technology on professional and personal lives.

 

The relationship between attitudes and performance

 

In her paper titled paper titled, “Why Does Affect Matter in Organizations?”, Sigal Barsade, a management professor at Wharton writes that employees’ attitudes, sentiments, and general outlook can have an impact on job performance, decision-making, innovation, turnover, collaboration and leadership. Barsade, an academic whose research is focussed on emotions and work dynamics, says an emotional revolution has occurred in the past 30 years as both academics and managers discovered that employees’ emotions play an integral role in what goes on in organizations. She also outlines that these emotions can be contagious and one person’s negative attitude towards their job or some aspect of it can spread throughout the team and affect the team’s performance as a whole.[i]

A paper by Barry M. Staw, Robert I. Sutton, Lisa H. Pelled in Organization Science titled “Employee Positive Emotion and Favourable Outcomes at the Workplace” indicates that positive emotion helps employees obtain favourable outcomes at work, with evidence of better performance in annual appraisals and larger salary increments as well as increased support from co-workers and managers.[ii]

People’s attitude towards technology

 

In his doctoral thesis at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Fred Davis proposed the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) to explain system acceptance or rejection. He anticipated that system use is a response that can be explained or predicted by the user’s motivation to use the system, which, in turn, is directly influenced by the actual system’s usefulness in terms of features and capabilities.[iii]

He concluded that people make decisions about whether or not to use technology based on the effort that they require to put in to use the new technology and the possible benefits that could arise out of them using this new system. A later extension of TAM included behavioural intention to use new systems. It discovered that both perceived ease of use and utility of the new technology had a direct impact on behavioural intention, which in turn led to the actual use of the new technology.

A digital attitudes study conducted by BBC and Doteveryone reveals that ‘society is not just divided into tech-lovers and luddites (a person opposed to new technology), on the contrary, people hold these apparently conflicting attitudes simultaneously.’ A number of people are even disturbed by their reliance on technology in their everyday lives. 52% of respondents to this study said that they wouldn’t be able to get through all the things they need to do every day if they didn’t use the internet because of the reliability on the internet for information. 80% of the respondents said that they value the convenience and new opportunities and knowledge that technology brings to their lives.

Social media shows #techaddict[iv] and #techaddiction[v] have been trending in America, Canada and India. It shows posts and articles about people becoming slaves to social media and smartphones. A survey by Office for National Statistics states that young people spend about one-third of their leisure time on devices. The survey also revealed that middle-aged people spent one fifth of their leisure time with technology in 2015.[vi]

On the other hand, about 24% of the respondents to the digital attitudes survey reported that they felt pressurized to use social media and the internet in order to stay relevant in their social groups.[vii] The study also reveals that respondents are limited in their appetite for innovation and that there is an understanding gap when it comes to new technology. They do not want technology to create disruption if it occurs at the expense of jobs originally handled by humans or results in a disadvantage for the underprivileged.  89% of the respondents said they felt disempowered by a lack of transparency in how online products and services operate, they wanted clearer terms and conditions and would like to know how their data is used but couldn’t find out.[viii]

‘Tech Anxiety’ is a new term being used across blogs and social media to express their concerns with their reliance on technology and the unknown capabilities of new tech. The burden to keep up with the most modern technology has caused many individuals and professionals to second guess themselves and often feel one step behind new technology. Dystopian Sci-Fi show ‘Black Mirror’ portrays the negative impacts technology can have if we are not careful with what we allow it to control. This has added to people’s concerns and anxiety toward becoming tech-reliant.[ix]

Technology and its impact on performance and personal lives

Technology benefits organizations in a number of ways. It facilitates communication and coordination across geographies, improves efficiency and productivity and reduces expenses.

However, there are consequences to our technology reliant lives. Although new technology offers a number of benefits such as increased efficiency, capacity and performance, those benefits are at least partly offset by the time users spend on learning how to use it. It requires people to learn new skills and change their behaviour, a process which is highly time consuming[x]. On the other end of the spectrum, certain technologies have become highly addictive and monopolize most employees time and attention.

According to a research study conducted by Pew Research Center on attitudes and impacts of technology, people in executive and managerial roles acknowledged the compromises that come with increased technology. These employees expressed that the increased connectivity that technology brings leads to longer work hours, increased job-related stress levels, and low work-life balance as they are unable to disconnect from work when they’re at home or spending time with family.[xi] Hashtags such as #NationalDayof Unplugging and #DigitalDetox are being used on social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter to encourage people to take time off from technology.[xii]

So, while companies may benefit from tech-enabled increased productivity, it all depends on the employee’s acceptance and proper use of these new technologies. Simply releasing new technologies isn’t enough. Employees still need guidance on proper use and integration of these tools into their daily work. Additionally, the benefits that the technology brings need to be clearly communicated as technological change requires behavioural change which is only possible with employee buy-in. Without addressing these concerns, integrating new technologies will not result in improved performance.[xiii]

In terms of the impact of technology on people’s personal lives, Chris Koepfer, in his article in Production Machining Magazine says that we are facing a phenomenon called “heads down” where parents are face down in their devices while their kids are interacting with some other device that is created for them. He says that this is not a generation specific thing, and this trend is observed across baby-boomer, millennials and GenZ alike. He predicts that as time goes by, this phenomenon will be the new normal.[xiv]

 

 

Part 2 – Primary Research

This section of the report outlines the research methodology, the primary research findings and an assessment of the survey tool.

Methodology

  1. Procedure

This research study was conducted between October 02nd and October 06th, 2018, using the Tech Stress Screening Tool designed by Lee Godfrey, Mindfulness & Wellness Coach and Managing Director, internet : intelligence Inc.

The tool was designed to classify people into one of the 3 following categories with regards to their use of, and attitudes about, technology: ‘anxious’, ‘avoidant’ and/or ‘addicted’.

  1. Population

A sample population of 30 full-time employees in Canada was chosen to represent the Canadian full-time employment population and their attitudes towards technology.

2017 StatCan Labour force figures of Canadian full-time employment population grouped by gender and age were used in order to correctly represent the demographic groups present in the Canadian Full-time employed population.

According to this data, the break-up of the full-time employment population by age group and gender is as follows (estimates in thousands, rounded to the nearest hundred)[xv].

The following sample population was chosen to administer the screening tool in order to maintain high fidelity to the research population.

To improve the quality of responses from survey respondents, candidates were chosen from a diverse set of industries and backgrounds.

The industries represented are:

  1. Healthcare
  2. Transportation
  3. Education & Training
  4. Staffing
  5. Information Technology 
  6. Advertising & Marketing
  7. Building Products
  8. Legal Services 
  9. Banking
  10. Hospitality
  11. Finance
  12. Management Consulting 
  13. Food & Beverage
  14. Legal Services 
  15. Electrical/Electronic Equipment 
  16. Automobile Sales
  17. Aerospace
  18. Retail Sales
  19. Internet Design Services 
  20. Sales Promotion 
  21. Engineering
  22. Public Relations 
  23. Equipment Manufacturing

  1. Data Analysis

In order to analyse the data, all survey results were tabulated and each respondent was classified into one or more of the three categories with regard to their use of, and attitudes about, technology (anxious, avoidant and/or addicted) based on their responses. The data was then analysed to observe co-relation between age group/gender and people’s attitude towards technology.

Primary Research Findings

Testing of hypothesis

The objective of the study was to determine whether Lee Godfrey’s hypothesis regarding people’s relationship with technology was true or not.

Hypothesis:  Only 15% of people are comfortable with technology, the remaining 85% are either anxious, avoidant or addicted to technology.

The survey results showed that all 100% of the respondents fell into one or more of the three categories with regards to their relationship with technology. Of the total respondents, 77% were addicted, 7% were addicted & avoidant, 7% were anxious, 6% were avoidant and 3% were addicted & anxious of technology.

Age and relationship with technology

  • Respondents within the age group 15-24 and 45-64 are more avoidant of technology as compared to those that fall in the age groups 25-44 and 65 and over.
  • Respondents within the age group 15-24 are also more anxious about technology as compared to the other age groups.
  • Respondents within the 65 and over age group were most addicted to technology, followed by those within the 45-64 age group.

Gender and relationship with technology

  • Both male and female respondents were equally addicted to technology.
  • Female respondents tended to be more anxious and avoidant as compared to male respondents.
  • Male respondents within the age group 65 and over were found to be addicted to technology as compared to the other age groups.
  • Male respondents within the age groups 15-24 were found to be more anxious and avoidant of technology as compared the other age groups.
  • Female respondents within the age group 45 – 64 were found to be more avoidant and anxious about technology as compared to the other age groups.

Industry and relationship with technology

  • Respondents from the Food & Beverage and Hospitality industry showed more signs of addiction as compared to those from other industries.
  • Respondents from the Healthcare industry were anxious and avoidant of the use of technology.

Hence the hypothesis that only 15% of people are comfortable with technology and the remaining 85% are either anxious, avoidant or addicted to technology is not true.

Assessment of the survey tool

The survey tool focuses on categorizing respondents into one of the three categories with regards to their relationship with technology, anxious, avoidant or addicted. None of the questions in the screening tool allow people to be categorized as ‘comfortable’ with technology.

The answer key provided with the screening tool does not specify how the screening and categorization is to be performed, hence even if a respondent has ticked only 1 of the possible 8 statements that show characteristics of being avoidant, addicted or anxious, they are labelled accordingly. It also does not allow the researcher to understand the degree to which a person is anxious, addicted or avoidant hence, there is a possibility that the results may have been wrongly interpreted.

The survey also fails to collect demographic information such as age, gender, industry of work, etc. which is useful to analyse the trends observed.

The screening also focusses on different aspects of technology for each type of question.

Most questions related to addiction are based on technology used for personal consumption the use of smartphones, social media or the internet in general. The questions pertaining to being avoidant, talk about new technology in the workplace that they have less control over such as new software, password requirements, and new softwares being implemented by service providers such as doctors and travel agents. The questions about anxiety about technology are all geared towards people’s perception of them and a lack of understanding of the functioning of certain technology other than smartphones and social media.

Problematic Questions

  1. My doctor’s office is switching to online appointment bookings! Now what am I going to do?

This question is problematic as it is an open ended question. Respondents might feel the need to give an explanation to answer this question. It could have been rephrased as “ I don’t know what to do now that my doctor’s office has switched to online appointment bookings.”

  1. I’m so embarrassed…I have to keep asking my kids for help with my smartphone!

Since the questionnaire is meant for all working professionals in general and not just those with kids, it is not right to have the words “I have to keep asking my kids for help with my smartphone” in the question. Instead it should be I’m so embarrassed…I have to keep asking my friends or colleagues for help with my smartphone!”

  1. How am I going to find any of the notes I’ve made on my tablet?

This is another open ended question that respondents might feel the need to give an explanation to. It could have been rephrased as “ I don’t know where to find the notes I’ve made on my tablet.”

 

  1. How am I going to tell my sister/brother that I screwed up the Kindle she/he gave me for my birthday?

Open ended question that respondents might feel the need to give an explanation to. It could have been rephrased as “I don’t know how to tell my sister/brother that I screwed up the Kindle she/he gave me for my birthday.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusions

 

  • Employees attitudes towards technology have a direct impact on their performance in the workplace.

Research findings show that in general, attitudes toward different aspects of work, including the technology being employed, affect workplace performance and other related outcomes. Both the primary and secondary research findings show that (100%) people have an unhealthy relationship with technology, they are either addicted to it and have become too reliant on technology or are anxious and avoidant because they are unaware of the possibilities of technology. This would mean that the negative ‘affect’ or attitude has a direct negative impact their performance in workplaces as well as their personal lives, as outlined in the secondary research section of the report.

  • While people may be addicted to familiar technologies such as smartphones and social media, they are also anxious and avoidant when they encounter new hardware or software.

Based on both the secondary research on digital attitudes as well as results from the primary research survey, it is observed that people have a complicated relationship with technology. They may show signs of addiction to certain technology, while at the same time being avoidant and anxious of others. It is not black and white, as the two attitudes may exist in the same person because certain technologies are easier to use and bring a multitude of benefits, whereas the others have instructions that are harder to follow or have no instructions at all and the benefits of these software/hardware are difficult to see.

  • The technology understanding gap in employees offsets the performance benefits of technology.

As outlined in the Technology Acceptance Model it is important for workplaces to have proper training and new tech roll-out plans in place to clearly communicate the purpose and benefits of new technology to gain employees buy-in, failing which the firm would fail to reap the benefits that the new technology brings. People are also anxious about using technology due to the lack of transparency in how these products and services operate.

 

Bibliography:


[i] Sigal Barsade (2007). “Why Does Affect Matter in Organizations?”, Wharton School of Management, University of Pennsylvania. http://www-management.wharton.upenn.edu/barsade/docs/Barsade_WhyAffectMattersAOM.pdf

“In this study, the researcher examined the relation between emotion and performance. The study concludes that the employees’ attitudes, sentiments, and general outlook can have an impact on job performance, decision-making, innovation, turnover, collaboration and leadership. This study was conducted in the year 2007, however, it is still relevant because similar phenomena are still seen in workplaces today.”

[ii] Barry M. Staw, Robert I. Sutton, Lisa H. Pelled (1994). “Employee Positive Emotion and Favorable Outcomes at the Workplace”, Organization Science Vol 5. , No. 1.

“This paper published in Organization Science a bimonthly peer-reviewed academic journal published by the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences employs psychological, sociological and organizational behaviour to develop a framework that indicates how positive emotion helps employees obtain favourable outcomes at work. The study was conducted in 18-months by observing 272 employees in the United States of America.”

[iii] Chuttur M.Y. (2009). “Overview of the Technology Acceptance Model: Origins,

Developments and Future Directions ,” Indiana University, USA . Sprouts: Working Papers

on Information Systems, 9(37). http://sprouts.aisnet.org/9-37

“In this study, the researcher examined the origin of the Technology Acceptance Model and its key applications, limitations, and criticisms from a selective list of published articles on the model. The study concludes that the TAM has a number of theoretical assumptions and practicality and that there is a large scope for improvement in the model. However, this study is relevant because the TAM research study was conducted on employees in Toronto, Canada  (which is our target research population). It also provides information regarding possible extensions/modifications to TAM that may make it a better predictor of technology adoption.”

[vi]Financial Times Article titled “Young people found to spend a third of their leisure time on devices”

“The article is about a study conducted by Office for National Statistics in the year 2015 on how people in UK enjoy leisure time, and how that differs according to age and gender.”

[vii] People, Power and Technology: The 2018 Digital Attitudes Report

“ This study was conducted by Doteveryone, an organization that supports responsible technology for the good of everyone in society. It explores the British public’s attitude towards technology. A total of 2,000 people were surveyed online and 500 by phone, along with focus group discussions on the topic. The project was funded by BBC and the organization is supported financially by BT, Sage, and Omidyar Network.”

[viii] People, Power and Technology: The 2018 Digital Attitudes Report

“ This study was conducted by Doteveryone, an organization that supports responsible technology for the good of everyone in society. It explores the British public’s attitude towards technology. A total of 2,000 people were surveyed online and 500 by phone, along with focus group discussions on the topic. The project was funded by BBC and the organization is supported financially by BT, Sage, and Omidyar Network.”

[ix] http://technologyandsociety.org/black-mirror/

“Article titled “Black Mirror” in Technology and Society By Doug Hill, the author of Not So Fast: Thinking Twice About Technology, on August 1st, 2017 in Editorial & Opinion section.”

[x] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/03/is-technology-hurting-productivity

“This is a publication by World Economic Forum written by Jeffrey Frankel, a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government who previously served as a member of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers. He outlines how
technology is a possible cause of reduced productivity and could also have negative effects on our well-being.”

[xi] http://www.pewinternet.org/2008/09/24/attitudes-and-impacts-of-technology/

“This Pew Internet & American Life Project report is based on the results of The Networked Workers Survey. The survey was conducted via telephonic interviews with a representative sample of 2,134 adults living in United States, including 1,000 self-identified full-time and part-time adult workers by Princeton Survey Research International from March 27 to April 14, 2008.”

[xiii]https://www2.deloitte.com/insights/us/en/focus/behavioral-economics/government-technology-adoption-behavioral-nudges.html

“This Deloitte insights article titled ‘How nudge theory and design thinking can help your government IT project succeed’  outlines that technology adoption is related to human behaviour and outlines how organizations can be people centric in their approach to improve tech adoption.”

[xiv] Changing Behaviors–the Final Frontier. By: KOEPFER, CHRIS. Production Machining. May 2016, Vol. 16 Issue 5, p6-6. 1p.

“This article by Chris Koepfer in Product Machining magazines shares his thoughts on the acceptance and the rate of change of technology.”

[xv] https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/cv.action?pid=1410001801

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