The persistent evolution of the Internet is rapidly changing our work and personal lives. While the data is slightly dated, the Pew Research Center in 2008 reported that 62% of employed workers were considered ‘networked workers,’ meaning that they use the internet or email at their jobs (Madden & Jones, 2008). Workers who are connected on the job are more likely than other adults to have additional means to connect to the internet, including cell phones, personal computers, tablets, or other personal digital assistant devices (Madden & Jones, 2008). These various digital devices blur the traditional barrier of where work is conducted and allow many professionals to interact with fellow employees outside of normal business hours.
As technology advances, computers and artificial intelligence will alter the work environment. New jobs will be created, and routine and repetitive jobs, such as those in manufacturing, will be replaced by more capable robotics (Smith & Anderson, 2014). This includes the majority of my employees’ manufacturing positions at Georgia-Pacific. Many professions, in fact, have not even been created, with new careers appearing each year; as an example, due to advancement in connectivity and the Net, 10 in-demand professions in 2010 did even exist in 2004 (Fisch, 2010; Watwood, 2016). Unfortunately, our education system may not adapt quickly enough to prepare students for future workforce requirements, and the technical nature of many professions will prevent those in poverty from being able to obtain the education and training necessary to succeed in the connected world (Smith & Anderson, 2014).
Several changes are considered key drivers of critical work skills that will be in demand as the internet evolves and more individuals connect over the Web. These changes include increasingly capable computer systems able to gather, sort, and interpret complex sets of data; an increase in social tools that will connect organizations and people on larger scales; and providing the global community access to members traditionally cut off by time, distance, and politics (Davies, Fidler, & Gorbis, 2011). Traditional forms of management may also devolve to meet the needs of connected employees. Networks, according to Jarche (2013), will become the new companies as leaders modify supervisory practices to decrease traditional managerial friction points which can be bypassed by networked workers. Business success may rely on how capable companies are of utilizing the Net’s ability to solve complex problems through its immense knowledge reserves and ability to connect employees to meet various business objectives; supervisors will also have to modify leadership skills to empower rather than direct subordinates (Weinberger, 2011).
Connectivity is blurring how workers are employed and conduct job-related tasks. Smartphones and laptops are ubiquitous in most professions, with many employees constrained to conduct work at home or on the weekends (Madden & Jones, 2008). The ability to be always connected with work can be stressful as it can feel that there is no distinction between work and home lives. The ability to telecommute, while providing several advantages to employees, to include reduced commuting costs and providing more freedom to workers, continues to change our perception of what work means for the professional adult.
However, Yahoo’s 2013 decision to ban telecommuting seems to reject the freedom provided to some individual workers via internet connectivity. I can agree with many of CEO Marissa Meyer’s critiques of the practice, to include the decrease in value creation due to lack of face-to-face engagement and the different work ethic of many individuals (Bednarz, 2013). I consider myself a hard-working employee; however, if allowed to work from home, I can see the temptation to be diverted by the innumerable distractions in my home environment.
Bednarz, A. (2013, February 28). Is Yahoo’s telework ban shortsighted or savvy? Data says both. Retrieved from http://www.networkworld.com
Fisch, K. M. (2010, March 2). Did you know 3.0 (official video edition). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com
Jarche, H. (2013, November 5). Networks are the new companies. Retrieved from http://www.jarche.com
Madden, M., & Jones, S. (2008, September 24). Networked workeers. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org
Smith, A., & Anderson, J. (2014, August 6). AI, robotics, and the future of jobs. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org
Watwood, B. (2016). Week 5 overview: the opportunities and challenges of networked workers. Retrieved from http://www.blueline.instructure.com
Weinberger, D. (2011). Too big to know. New York: Basic Books.