Are We Too Dependent on Technology?

Recently, I was without a computer for a better part of two days. I had anticipated only being off-line for 30 minutes, as our IT department applied a few “enhancements” to my machine. Those minutes turned into days and my anxiety level rose. I experienced some depression-like feelings and I even tweeted about it. A friend texted me and ask if I was ok, and if I would please step back from the ledge. 

Looking back, my actions seemed silly, but it got me thinking about our dependency on technology at work and in our personal lives. Are we addicted technology? Apparently, some in Silicon Valley think so, according to this NYTimes article.

How many times have you heard, “My email is down so I can’t do any work!” or “I might as well go home because the network is down”? Have we forgotten how to use the phone or walk down the hall?

In business, and specifically in HR, we want to solve every issue in the name of ROI. We roll out systems, run reports and automate every process to make ours, and employee’s lives, easier. We can hold meetings with our clients via Skype or Google Hangouts. We can put systems in place so we never have to leave our offices. If we can just push those pesky HR processes off our plate, we can be "more strategic.” 

And, there's the problem.

If we focus more on the systems, and less on our people, we can isolate our department.  Technology is great and I’m the biggest proponent of it, but we need to use it as an enhancement to our client relationships, not as a replacement. We can have the latest and greatest HRIS, but if we have no relationships or credibility with our leaders, we’ll never be able to show the value of those systems.  

Here are a few things HR can do to balance the human interaction with technology and ensure productivity during long network outages:

  • Wear comfortable shoes. Get out of your office and visit your client group. You may have to take the stairs, so be ready.
  • Have a printed phone list of employees, key contacts and vendors.
  • If your systems have the capability, ensure you, and your employees, know how to access email remotely via webmail. If VPN is an option, see that employees have access.
  • If phones are down, have your cell phone charged or, again, see the first point.

We need to continue to progress with the latest systems.  Technology can improve our efficiency and effectiveness as an organization, but we need to make sure we are able to survive when these systems are not available, or when our clients cannot access them. Personally, I find myself a little too reliant on systems and gadgets, at times, and am focusing more on unplugging and relying on my comfortable shoes.







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