Networked Workers: Opportunities And Challenges.

The Internet has come to stay. It has actually crept into various aspects of our lives knowingly or unknowingly. It influences the way we work, relate, talk, think and live. Organizations are also being affected by the existence of the Internet.

Opportunities and advantages of the Internet in the work place are many. Networked workers have the capacity to work on the go. When necessity calls, they are able to respond even if they are in the fields or half-way across the globe. Through the Internet, they can be reached, and through social network, they can make their contributions in real time, at an affordable cost. Internet makes telecommuting possible. According to Bednarz (2013) networked workers who work from home are more satisfied, contribute more working hours, and are more cost effective (they save money/time on transport, they save money on renting office spaces, they save time that could have been given to sick leave, etc).

There are also a number of challenges with the Internet and networked workers. First networked workers are more stressed since they carry their work about with them on their smart devices. Second, due to the changing nature of work requirements, especially in the face of automation of many blue collar and white collar jobs, networked workers must keep learning, and honing their skills and learning new skills to remain relevant. This is quite challenging and stressful. Third, with the rapid changes being brought by the Internet, there is an air of unpredictability hanging in the air in many organizations. Organizations do not know what new trend that may render them and their services irrelevant. Fourth, there is the concern that automation may take over a lot of blue and white collar jobs. This may lead to unemployment and social unrest ( Smith and Anderson, 2014). Fifth, it has been argued that telecommuting staffs tell more lies, and it is difficult to supervise and give practical feedbacks to such staff. Sixth, availability of the internet can lead to distraction (time spent on social media) and waste of time (time spent just surfing the immense information on the net). Seventh, the undiscerning can be easily misinformed on the Internet. It takes skill to sieve the huge information seen on the Internet.

The advantages of freely available internet access to workers are many. First, it helps the workers to be socially networked and encourages communication. With communication, work effectiveness, and social relationship is enhanced. Second, availability of the Internet encourages on-going learning. Many workers learn relevant skills on their own, at their pace in cost effective manner. This is advantageous to whatever industry they are in. Third, free Internet access for workers encourages staff to communicate and collaborate more. This leads to effectiveness and efficiency. Fourth, it encourages transparency and trust. It also encourages carrying people along. Through organizations’ social media account, they can collaborate and share ideas very effectively. Fifth, communication is very important in relationships. In a networked world, where workers cut across time zones, national and organizational boundaries, the internet provide the medium that enhance the building of relationships for effectiveness in the work place. Sixth, automation of a number of jobs may lead to more leisure time for humans (Smith and Anderson, 2014). Seventh, although job automation may lead to loss of some jobs, the advancement in technology will lead to the creation of newer job opportunities especially for those workers who learn to reeducate themselves and re-adapt.

One main opportunity inherent the above challenges is that the Internet offers the time needed to develop other important aspects of life that are valuable and meaningful. Smith and Anderson (2014) explain that “Many things need to be done to care for, teach, feed, and heal others that are difficult to monetize. If technologies replace people in some jobs and roles, what kinds of social support or safety nets will make it possible for them to contribute to the common good through other means?” Perhaps, it will create the opportunity for humans to focus in other important aspects of life like those listed above. Also, the automation of jobs will also give humans time to engage in and explore other important aspects of life like building relationships and pursuing other meaningful activities like spending time in developing human relationships. Furthermore, advances in AI will be helpful for the elderly and disabled in society by providing means that will help their better integration and access to things, and also, it will enhance their care (Smith and Anderson, 2014). For instance, self-driving cars will make it easier for the disabled, visually challenged or elderly persons to move around without hindrances. This will open up a lot of economic opportunities for them, and enhance their psychological well-being. Finally, the challenges posed by automation (unemployment) may present humans with the opportunity to re-organize society to find ways to better integrate and cater for the unemployed.

In general, I believe that there are a lot of opportunities inherent in the advancement being presented to us by the Internet. There are some challenges, but the opportunities are much. Humans will continue to find ways to reduce the problems posed by the challenges of technology, and strive to maximize the opportunities these technologies present.

References

Bednar, A. (2013, Feb. 28). Is Yahoo’s telework ban shortsighted or savvy? Data says both. NETWORKWORLD. Retrieved from http://www.networkworld.com/article/2163977/smb/is-yahoo-s-telework-ban-shortsighted-or-savvy–data-says-both.html

Smith A., & Anderson J. (2014, August 6). A1, robotics, and the future of jobs. PewResearchCenter: Internet, Science and Tech. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/08/06/future-of-jobs/

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6 thoughts on “Networked Workers: Opportunities And Challenges.

  1. You bring up a good point about networked workers being stressed since they carry their work with them. This is something that I had not thought about, but I agree with your comment. I recall a conversation that I had recently with my IT team about having my email on my phone. It was suggested that we add G-mail to our phone in a meeting and I wholeheartedly disagreed as this went beyond boundaries I have set to ensure my work-life balance. In the world of technology it is hard to have a work-life balance, and as a parent, I do my best to keep work and home separate. I do have email on my I-pad, but I did limit the devices I was willing to network. I love that I can work remotely and collaborate with colleagues, but I do draw a line as to how available I am to my organization. I believe that employees need to know their boundaries and work with their organizations to ensure being networked keeps them from a work-life balance.

    SONeal

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    • Thanks a lot for sharing your personal experience of trying to create a healthy work and life balance. Being Networked makes it possible for one to be on top of work even if one is on the road or away from office. I like this since I am often on the road, due to my work. I try to create life and work balance by avoiding access to my official mail after office hours. Just like you did I also deliberately ensure that my official mail is not on my smart devices (phone and iPad) since I am tempted to open and use them often, especially after office hours. I also try to ensure that I avoid office work after office hours (the work never ceases). I believe that each individual has the responsibility to create this balance. Also, organizations need to work with their staff to ensure that the balance is created and that the work does not necessarily suffer. Organizations should, in discussing with their staff, find appropriate ways of responding to after office hour emergencies.

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  2. I just love your opening sentence! Yes, the Internet is here to stay, and has become a very important part of modern culture and work. I also like your point about self-driving cars making life easier for the disabled. Do you think the Internet and Artificial Intelligence will create more jobs in the long run? Why or why not?

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  3. Thanks for your comments. I believe that technology will lead to the loss of a lot of jobs in the short term, but, in the long term, new jobs will be created. They will lose jobs in the short term because of the automation that comes with introduction of technology. And I see automation of many aspects of personal and organizational life increasing. This is because the Internet is allowing more and more people to collaborate and create innovative solutions to human challenges and problems. The Apps for smart devices that humans are creating to respond to all forms of needs are instructive here. Furthermore, others will lose jobs in the short term because they will lack the required skills needed in an increasingly technology driven industries.

    However, in the long term, humans will adapt, as a they have always adapted. New needs will emerge (skills need to work with or maintain the new technologies). Furthermore, with more leisure, humans may now begin to explore the satisfaction of other higher items in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. As they say, human needs and wants are insatiable, as some are satisfied, new ones will definitely merge. These will ensure that more workers will still be needed in the future. This situation will require people to be adaptable, and willing to assess the world, and acquire necessary skills.

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  4. Edletech,

    Great job discussing the advantages and disadvantages of networked workers. I would agree that being connected 24/7 puts stress on us as we are always “on,” and are always working through company issues that arise outside of 8-5pm. Do you think there are any ethical issues that arise when we are always connected?

    Thanks!
    Kaylea

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    • Kaylea, I believe there are ethical issues. One that I am concerned about is privacy. As we become more networked and share both private and official information via our smart devices, I worry that some staff may handle some important information irresponsibly, allowing those who those information where not meant for to gain access to them. Also, a number of our members’ email accounts have been hacked in the past. This made it possible for unauthorized persons to gain access to some organizational information. Moreover, as people’s private and organizational information become more and more accessible through the Internet, it becomes more and more important for their staff to do all they can to safeguard these information, and not to use these information (which they may have access to) improperly.

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