Is technology killing the human connection?

by Victoria Bruce06 May 2016
Nothing beats a face-to-face meeting as a means of building rapport and strengthening relationships in the workplace.

Whether it’s a coffee meetup with colleagues to discuss a new team strategy or lunch with a client, the connection built with this simple human interaction could be more valuable than a dozen emails.

Yet while an overwhelming majority of Australian workers believe face-to-face meetings are the best way to interact with people at work, technology and digitisation are killing human interaction in the modern workforce.

That’s the findings from new research by HR and recruitment specialists, Randstad, who recently examined the impact technology is having workplace relationships.

Frank Ribuot, CEO Australia & New Zealand at Randstad, told HC Online that almost two-thirds of Australian workers believe technology is negatively impacting their face-to-face time with work contacts.

“Technology is undoubtedly having an increasing impact on the way we live, work and play. In the workplace, it forces us to ask the question each day of how, where and when to connect with people,” Ribuot says.

While technology means we can communicate with one another more efficiently, such as across continents and time zones, Ribuot says the effectiveness of such communications needs to be questioned.

“It would be more time efficient to conference call a client than travel to their office for a face-to-face meeting,” he says.

“And perhaps it’s quicker to email a colleague than stop by their desk for a conversation. But are these interactions as effective as they could be?

“And would a more meaningful connection and better rapport be established in person?”

Randstad’s research suggests technology is also responsible for Aussie workers having less and less face-to-face interactions in the office:

Almost nine in ten (88%) Australian workers believe face-to-face meetings are the best way to interact with people at work – a sentiment similarly felt by neighbours in New Zealand (85%) and even the global average (89%)

• Yet, almost two thirds (62%) of Aussies point out their interactions with work contacts are less frequently face-to-face due to technology. This is a figure much higher than the global average of 46% and even of our Kiwi counterparts at 57%
• 65% of Aussie workers already feel society is becoming less compassionate due to the growing use of technology

The Randstad Workmonitor report (Wave 1 2016) also found the majority of Australian workers (81%) believe technology and digitisation are having a major impact on their job.

“By its very nature, Australia is a social society,” says Ribuot.

He says Australian employees rank a pleasant working environment as the second most important factor for people when choosing to work for an employer.

“Key to a pleasant working environment are interpersonal relationships, a sense of comradery with colleagues, and rapport with clients and customers – all things Aussie workers don’t want to lose, but will be affected if face-to-face interactions in the workplace continue to decline.”

Employers need to find the right balance between ‘tech’ and ‘touch’ in the workplace by adopting technologies which will allow the business to become more efficient, deliver a better product or service faster or with a lower return on investment.

“My advice would be not to let those technologies come at the expense of real life, in person, face-to-face interactions,” Ribuot says.

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