A View from David Appell

Technology and Working Life

Technology is supposed to make our lives better, isn’t it? More capable, more efficient, accomplishing tasks in shorter amounts of time. And what’s the point of that? A more civilized life, I thought – more leisure, more time for oneself…

  • June 16, 2005

Technology is supposed to make our lives better, isn’t it? More capable, more efficient, accomplishing tasks in shorter amounts of time. And what’s the point of that? A more civilized life, I thought – more leisure, more time for oneself and for friends and family.

Except it’s not looking to be that way. A distressing new report from a group called OfficeTeam looks at trends in office life over the next 10 to 15 years. They found that “technology will continue to reshape the workspace,” but it’s not exactly the kind of reshaping that technology – especially wireless technologies – were supposed to bring:

– Forty-two percent of executives polled said they believe employees will be working more hours in the next 10 to 15 years. Only 9 percent said they would be working fewer hours.

– Workers will stay in touch with the office while on vacation.

– Travel will be reduced, and telecommuting will increase. But workers will be under increasing stress and strain to “adapt quickly to change, work smarter, increase productivity and perform duties outside of one’s job description.” Sure, that works for some workers, primarily younger workers. But does it work for everyone?

“As a result,” the study concludes, “flexibility and adaptability will be sought-after attributes in employees at all levels.” That sounds to me like code word for “you’ll do it our way or hit the highway.”

Sure, wifi, cell phones, videoconferencing, and the developments of the next decade enable us to do things we couldn’t do before, and part of that is an overall benefit. Heck, some of it’s even fun. But Americans work hard enough and vacation little enough as it is. If the cost is yet longer hours and fewer true vacations, is the price really worth it? Worse, do workers really have any choice about it?

Tech Obsessive?
Become an Insider to get the story behind the story — and before anyone else.
Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all five of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium

$179.95/yr US PRICE

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.

  • Insider Premium {! insider.prices.premium !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Our award winning magazine, unlimited access to our story archive, special discounts to MIT Technology Review Events, and exclusive content.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

    First Look. Exclusive early access to stories.

    Insider Conversations. Join in and ask questions as our editors talk to innovators from around the world.

  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus ad-free web experience, select discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning magazine and daily delivery of The Download, our newsletter of what’s important in technology and innovation.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

You've read of free articles this month.