TECH CHANGES IN THE WORKPLACE
Millennials let alone Gen Z’s will be astonished to think of a workplace without the web, the internet, email and apps. Not to mention smartphones, devices that many would find it impossible to work or live without. But technology in the workplace has changed radically in the last 40 years, so much so that the office of yesteryear would be almost unrecognizable in today’s world of hybrid and remote working. Rita Dugan, former Research Manager at Bournemouth University, affectionately reflected on the workplace of the 80s and its technology – or lack thereof – and said:
“Stress levels were not as great in the ’80s, as technology did not allow instant responses to enquiries. People tended to talk to you rather than converse electronically. This meant that issues rarely became crises because talking tended to solve the problem.”
What else made the workplace of the 80s and all the way through to the 2010s so different from the way we work in 2022, with our ‘always-on’ work culture often dictated by social media trends? Let’s take a look at how the workplace has evolved in 4 decades as has the technology needed for it to function.
Any of you who have seen the Harrison Ford/Sigourney Weaver movie, Working Girl, will have a clear picture of the workplace in the 1980s. First off, it was much more male-dominated than the office of today. According to the National Office of Statistics, in 1985 men filled two million more jobs than women. By June 2005, the ratio was much closer to 50:50. From a technology perspective, there were big differences, too. The 80s welcomed personal computers to the workplace, although the Web and the Internet were still to make their entrance onto the scene. PCs, aimed at boosting employee productivity, were connected via a Local Area Network or LAN. And of course, there was no email. Andy Powell, former CMO at Morgan Phillips Groups, recalled:
“I have vivid memories of being sent to deliver some typing to the ladies in the typing pool. It’s hard to imagine not having e-mail and the immediacy of communication that we have today. In the ’80s, you had to dictate a memo, get it typed, make amendments, then wait for it to be returned before posting it to colleagues. I’m surprised we ever got anything done.”
In 1985 the first mobile phone was launched on the market but only became a common work tool in the 2000s.
The 1990s saw some significant technological breakthroughs in the workplace. Essentially a new way of working was born, with the rapid adoption of the Web and the Internet. In 1993, email was beginning to surface and by 1997, the amount of business e-mail overtook that of regular mail. The 1990s could best be described as the Information Age exemplified by the birth of these technologies:
- Adobe PDF
- MP3 audio
- Content Management Systems such as WordPress
In 1998, Larry Page and Sergey Brin officially launched Google, now the world’s most popular search engine, with Alphabet-owned Chrome controlling more than 60% of global browsing.
THE NEW MILLENNIUM
At the beginning of the new century, technology was becoming faster, more portable and more affordable. In 2001, China, with its then low manufacturing costs and enormous scale of operations, joined the World Trade Organization, its membership being facilitated by the United States. The portability and accessibility of technologies such as laptops and high-speed broadband saw the birth of a new type of worker, the telecommuter, aka the virtual or remote worker. Open-plan offices and co-working spaces became popular where employees could interact and communicate more freely. The mid-2000s also saw the emergence of the Big 3 cloud computing services: Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon Web Services (AWS). Did happiness accompany this evolution of technology in the 2000s? Peter Warr, from Sheffield University, thinks not and said:
“If you reduce your expected level of gain, you can be happy with what you get, even though that is less than before. We then view a situation in relation to our current feelings. That’s why it’s unrealistic to hope for ever-increasing happiness.”
RISE THE MILLENIALS
In the 2010s, the Millennials began to make their mark on the workplace. As they did, so they were joined by leading technologies such as collaboration tools and apps, cloud storage and the massive uptake of the smartphone. This is when the true ‘always-on’ work culture was born, and remote working meant that there were blurred lines between home and the physical office. As London-based Marketing Executive, Sophie Deering puts it:
“The internet, smartphones, and online file sharing have all made it possible for us to work anywhere and everywhere, which has led to a rise in remote working and collaborate with people on the other side of the world with ease.”
Remote and ‘always-on’ working saw employers expecting longer hours and a broader skillset. For many millennials who valued work-life balance over job progression, this was a challenge. To keep up with their employees’ demands, in the 2010s most companies began to invest in a workplace experience that attracted and kept hard-to-come-by talent.
ALWAYS CHANGING WITH THE TIMES
Technology will continue to evolve and what is state-of-the-art today may well be outmoded tomorrow. And just as technology changes and improves, I believe that I also do. If you have any concerns about securing IT in your workplace, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I have more than 20 years of experience in professional business IT management and specialise in cybersecurity and risk mitigation. Let’s meet up and discuss how to secure your technology of today and that well into the future.