Technology further divided into two categories, material and social

Technology is evolving fast, it is obviously having significant
impacts on the work place in current years. Technology could be defined in many
ways, it could mean different to different people. For me, I would define
technology as the application of human knowledge to develop new scientific ways
in order to solve practical problems. It can be further divided into two
categories, material and social technologies. Material technology refers to
items that physically exist, such as machinery and electronic devices, they are
built to help humans to perform activities faster more efficiently. Social
technologies are those that facilitate social interactions, these can include
digital networks, computer and information systems. Whether technology is
acting as a force for greater control at work or greater freedom from work varies
from different perspectives. People’s opinions could be dependent on the nature
of the work, the level in a particular hierarchy or the attitude to work. Generally,
leaders and managers would see and use technology as a tool for greater control
over the employees, while the employees would try to make use of technology to
obtain more freedom at work.

 

 

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Over the past few years, forecasts suggest
that the number of mobile devices is overtaking the global population,
companies have become increasingly reliant on cloud technology and moved more
and more resources to the cloud. With the help of cloud computing, work has
become less of a burden to employees. In the past, IT departments spent a lot
of time on equipment maintenance. With cloud technology, companies abandoned
their data centers and stored data in the cloud. It saves the hassle of
installing, maintaining, and updating, as well as removing security concerns. IT
teams can focus more on core projects, while executives can spend more of their
time on planning and strategic thinking. The national security officer of
Microsoft claimed that their cloud computing has brought benefits to both the
public and private sectors in terms of efficiency and cooperativity. In recent years, companies from varies industries have discovered
that time is a new basis of competition (Stalk, Evans and Shulman, 1992),
especially when completing in a global market. There
are three principal ways in which information technology can contribute to
freedom in the workplace. Firstly, by removing restrictions on where and when
tasks are performed, thus altering the time and place of work. Secondly,
collecting and processing information faster thus speeding up the pace of work,
Lastly, by enabling a quick response to changing market situations. Technologies have significantly given
the employees more time and freedom in completing their work. It is not
difficult to have observed that collaboration between work colleagues is now
closer. Sharing and comparing documents, proposals, and presentations are all
done in a flash, no matter where they are, allowing workmates to keep abreast
of the latest changes. As Mckendrick (2016) points out, cloud technology promotes self-management and innovation, employees now have
more freedom to choose the location and time to work in their interest. Work
can be done on all kinds of devices, such as smartphones and laptops since they
are capable of synchronization. Hundreds of
applications use the cloud to connect employees’ smartphones to office
networks, employees would then be able to record any new ideas or thoughts to
their work more freely wherever they are.

 

On the other
side, technology could lead to greater control at work. A survey conducted in Hong
Kong has showed that 42.7 percent of the participant think that technology has
been taking freedom away from work. The main complaint is that they can no
longer off their communications devices completely, having to keep their
devices on during sleep or vacation. Advances in science and technology have
pushed up the 24/7 work ethic.  Also, since
employees are now working through cloud technology, managers can potentially
track and trace the amount of time spent working in the office, or even
checking if the employees are working at any specific moment through a series
of regulatory technologies. Such transparency
could lead to coercive control, “a negative kind of ‘power and politics’ which privileges
certain functions and senior managers over others”. (Kanter,1993; Perrow,1986).
This enormous power of regulatory technology would most likely cause the
formation of the structure of domination in work organizations. An obvious
example would be the call center, where there are facilities for surveillance
purposes. Middle managers could randomly pick and listen to calls on a regular
basis to monitor the quality of the calls and check on the efficiency of the
workers. Other methods may include Scripts, Queuing Systems, Average Handling Times,
Off-Line Time etc. Workers in the
call center are being watched all the time, they are also supervised through
the recording of number of calls made, the time spent on calls and the length
of breaks taken. In Woodcock (2017)’s words, who have spent six months working
in a call center for researching purposes, those are measured precisely to the
second, employees would have no room for
resistance under this kind of total control. While these measures aim to ensure
that workers allocate time and resources efficiently appropriately, employees feel
distrust, since they are being watched all the time. In this case, managers have
obtained greater force of control at work through technologies.

 

Under
the influence of automation technology, the global labor market is changing, “robots
are rapidly replacing jobs we once assumed could never be replaced” (Fleming,
2015).  Modern technology has begun to
enter all kinds of sectors, many jobs have been automated, increasingly types
of repetitive work are replaced by machines, which poses a threat to people’s
employment. The choice of occupations is diminishing, meaning less options of
work is available for the future generations. Additionally, the on-going
technology revolution would mean that the younger generations are almost
certainly not going to have a permanent and secured occupation, they have to
adapt to a job market where there are little stability and job security. As
such, the freedom of choosing their occupations would potentially be lesser as
they would have loss the option of taking up a low skilled job. In contrast, A
survey carried out in 2017 has shown that 57% of Americans believe that their
work is unlikely to be replaced by automation over the next 10 years. At the
same time, 56% said that automation has improved their work. For example, many
people believe that automation technology has made their work safer and
simpler, they are now able to complete their work faster with the help of
machines and robots, leaving them with more spare time to pursue their personal
interests. What has been identified in the report is
that people with different education backgrounds respond differently to these
questions. Under the assumption that employees with a better education
background are more likely to be working in sectors where knowledge is the
dominant skill, future technologies are less able to replace high end works
such as consulting and financial forecasting. Instead, the advancement in
technology could mean that even more job options are available to them, as new
ideas and new forms of work could be developed through the cooperation with
machines. A recent study by Oxford University found that nearly half of all
jobs in the United States would be automated and people would be at risk of
losing their jobs. Technology has become an important cause of changes in the
way companies operate. Under a
relational approach, application of technology does not separate technologies,
users and contexts of use, but sees them in their mutual interactions. (Attila,
Praolin and Schubert 2015). Subsequently, high end sector workers
would experience increasing freedom at choosing their occupations.