5 Keys to Balancing Technology in the Workplace

By Tony DiCostanzo Sep 21, 2015
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Driven primarily by a younger, more-mobile workforce that has trouble imagining a world without the Internet and smartphones, the tendency to use technology nonstop has left HR professionals wondering:

“Is technology contributing to a more engaged and productive workforce or will it eventually leave everyone holding the short end of the stick?”

Sure, there’s an unquestionable need for technology in nearly every industry—studies show people are working longer hours because of it. But the key to a company’s success lies in knowing when and where to use technology. With that perilous and thankless task often left to HR professionals, here are five mantras to assist them when navigating the appropriate—and inappropriate—uses of technology in today’s workplace.

Eyes on the Prize

Simply stated, remind employees that when being addressed by a co-worker, colleague, superior or client, they should look that person in the eyes—and put the phone away. Period. Flipping through Tweets, Snapchat stories and entertaining Vines while someone kindly waits for your attention is the same as turning your back on them.

BYOB (Bring Your Own Brain)

When working with clients or attending important company meetings, rather than relying on the common BYOD business trend—bring your own device—suggest that employees rely solely on their innate ability to listen attentively and take written notes the old-fashioned way. Studies suggest that those who use pen and paper are more likely to remember important ideas and conversations better than those who break out the laptop and start clicking away on the keyboard. Then later in the day, perform a brain dump, as suggested by time-management expert David Allen in his book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (Penguin Books, 2015). Take the handwritten notes, prioritize what’s most important, and organize them in a Word document, Excel file or on PowerPoint slides.

Be Seen but Not Heard

Imagine the shock of an HR professional in the midst of a decisive interview hearing the sound of an obnoxious ring tone, which not only breaks his or her train of thought but also kills the candidate’s chance of landing the job. Cellphones and tablets can be helpful in an interview, particularly when showing work examples via the Internet or stored in digital format, but certain situations call for silencing smartphones and keeping devices out of sight.

Rules Rule

In Donald Sull and Kathleen M. Eisenhardt’s best-selling book, Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015), they demonstrate how and why rules help employees avoid the paralysis that often strikes when people confront too many choices. Particularly in a society overwhelmed by a plethora of electronic devices and technology that is advancing at the speed of sound, rules to work by, as well as live by, provide a surprisingly welcome structure that can reduce employee anxiety and stress.

Lead by Example

Executive team and management set the tone for what is acceptable and what is not when it comes to behaviors centered on technology. The staff will imitate what they see in management. It is important for managers to encourage the right behaviors. It’s all about etiquette.

Banning technology as a way of control is implausible in today’s workforce, but as the traditional eight-hour workday slowly segues into night—blurring the lines between personal life and career—it’s more important than ever before to be brave, set clear boundaries and optimize your resources.

Tony DiCostanzo, a frequent Forbes contributor, is the president and founder of BookPal, an e-commerce company that sells books to corporations, school districts, nonprofit organizations and government agencies.

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