It wouldn’t be the start of a new year without gazing into the crystal ball at the kind of technologies that might be impacting the workplace in the coming year. In the past, these types of explorations haven’t always been so successful. I mean, we’re still waiting for the flying cars, a generation of sci-fi writers proposed we’d be zipping about in.
A new survey from the Pew Research Center has taken an altogether more prosaic look at the tech needs of today’s workforce. It suggests that we’re not actually crying out for anything too whizzy, with our cravings all rather grounded in simple solutions to everyday problems, with old workhorses like email and the web still the most useful technologies for the modern employee.
The study saw hundreds of US workers surveyed about the role technology was playing in their work. It transpired that email retained top spot in the most useful list, receiving 61 percent of votes as very important. Next on the list was the Internet, which received 54 percent of votes as a crucial tech component of their work.
Despite the rapid pace of change in the tech world over the past decade, the Pew data shows that email and the Internet have remained at the top of the tree for most of the last decade. Email is far from a trendy technology for instance, and there appear an almost constant stream of articles proposing its imminent demise, yet it has remained invaluable for around 60 percent of employees in every Pew study over the last ten years.
As if to underline the slow pace of change, the survey also revealed that employees are using their computers to access the web and email far more than they are the new wave of mobile devices hitting the marketplace. Indeed, only 24 percent of employees revealed that their smartphone was crucial for their work. In slightly depressing news, this figure fell short of the 35 percent who regarded their standard old landline phone as essential.
An unsocial business
What’s more, in a blow to social media gurus, the number of people who regarded social networks as vital for their work was a rather miserly 4 percent. This could be largely explained by the continuing reluctance of employers to allow staff to browse such sites at work, with nearly 50 percent revealing that social networks are banned at work.
This trend was further emphasised by the number of employees who revealed that their web usage was strictly monitored by their employer. The trend was an upward one too. Whereas in 2006 just 20 percent of employers had any kind of monitoring policy, this rose to 25 percent in 2008, and this year to around 50 percent.
Whereas desktop usage remained king in the office, the survey did reveal however the growth in mobile working. Around 20 percent of respondents reported that they regularly worked from a location that wasn’t their main office. For these folks, a whole new range of technology was essential, with mobile phones much more popular amongst this cohort.
Interesting findings I think. How has your own tech usage changed over the past year? Please have your say in the comments section below.