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Technology in this century: Boon or bane?

Mark Leigh, President, Asia Pacific, Jabra | Dec. 9, 2014
A spectrum of technologies have the potential to empower knowledge workers to be highly productive at work; it all boils down to finding that perfect piece that seamlessly complements one's preferences.

"The most valuable asset of the 21st century are the knowledge workers and their productivity," said Peter F. Drucker, the first person to define the concept of the Knowledge Worker in 1959.

Without a doubt, the best way for businesses to remain competitive is to maximise the productivity of their most valuable asset -- the knowledge workers. In a knowledge-based economy, productivity is clearly linked to knowledge workers. But in this modern day and age where technology is assumed to help increase one's productivity -- the question is, does it really?

Numerous variations of new technologies have been introduced in the last 40 years to support productivity. From tablets to laptops to smartphones, innovators introduced revolutionary technologies in the hopes of increasing workplace efficiency. Despite this, studies have shown that productivity in knowledge-based economies have been on the decline.

10 minutes --  the frequency at which knowledge workers are interrupted. Thereafter, it takes them an average of 23 minutes to return to their train of thought. More often than not, knowledge workers are constantly swarmed by e-mails or taken off focus due to distracting colleagues. A clear paradigm shift exists as one McKinsey study underlines that knowledge workers spend around 28 hours per work week searching for information. So in a normal work week at 40-45 hours, what's left for what really matters?

Empowerment to Productivity
Today, 70% of all knowledge work is made in open office environments, with this number increasing by the day. However, as companies are increasingly alerted to the red signals of producing knowledge in open offices, many have turned to adding new work places into the equation such as working from home, hot desking, and even working from cafes. Despite this, there still remains a compromise on either one's personal concentration or collaboration with colleagues. Hence, there really is a strong market-driven need for a new solution that enables users to be in control of their productivity levels.

The introduction of unified communication tools has attempted to solve the productivity problem. With a plethora of devices and technologies, unified communication has enabled work mobility with an end goal of increasing productivity. However, social norms on interaction was still found to be lacking between people. Behaviourhas remained stagnant, and productivity has failed to increase despite the onset of new technologies.

In actual fact, the value of knowledge work is greatly challenged by an imbalance between Collaboration and Concentration. On one hand, collaboration is widely praised as the key to innovation and business success but on the other, concentration on the task at hand can often be interrupted by the need to collaborate. It's the business case study of the century: do solutions exist to make it possible for knowledge workers to communicate and share ideas from anywhere, and yet remain focused and productive at the end of the day?


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