This section covers how people have been affected by technology and the digital era –
Entertainment and Leisure
Do you imagine going to the office at nine every Monday to Friday and leaving at five? Many employers have changed their workplace practices. Employees have both lamented and welcomed the demise of nine to five work patterns. Work-life balance is an issue many of us will need to address at some stage in our careers. How can you deal effectively with the challenges posed by the modern work environment? Hot- desking Working from home Mobile working Teleworking Working Styles B
Hot Desking Where workers only occasionally need a desk, organisations have rationalised desk space by ‘hot-desking’, i.e. allocating a desk only when you are actually in the office. This is often combined with mobile working at a client’s home. The high cost of office space has encouraged businesses to economise on this. Some employees find hot-desking difficult because it denies them a distinct working area. It also requires a high level of organisation, as items required for work have to be brought to your desk space. There are cost advantages to an organisation if hot desking is combined with working from home. If no more than say 50% of the workforce are in the office at any one time, the saving on hardware, software and desk space can be considerable. Working Styles B
Working from home One of the easiest ways to free up office space and save on commuting time is to allow working from home. Home working was once a low-pay alternative for those who couldn’t get to work. It developed into professional areas when managers started working at home as a way of avoiding interruption, commonly when concentrating on a specific project. Unfortunately, there is a frequent misuse of home working, with employees told to 'take it home and finish it!' Some organisations have been more radical, equipping staff to work from home most of the time, apart from meetings, supervision and training. The Labour Force Survey (2000) found 1.6 million UK workers described themselves as ‘working from home’ or ’using home as a working base’, almost 6% of the workforce. Working from home requires discipline, due to the inevitable distractions, and trust from your employer. (Publication by the Future Foundation www.prospects.ac.uk) Working Styles B
Mobile working Mobile workers may have a base or headquarters but spend most of their working time in different locations. Organisations that provide services to businesses may carry out a great deal of work on clients’ premises. Auditors and management consultants, for example, often work this way. Information technology means that workers are able to communicate with their office and stay away from base for long periods, sending in work electronically. These 'mobile warriors' are heavily dependent on their laptop and mobile phone, often spending periods away from home. You should be comfortable with travel and constantly changing surroundings – for some this is an attraction. Others feel 'rootless' without a distinct work base. Working Styles B
Teleworking Teleworking means using communications technology to deliver work carried out remotely, often at home. Rural communities have seen teleworking as a possible way to bring industries and workers to areas that are depopulating and experiencing economic difficulty. A recent survey shows that 80% of teleworkers are managers or professionals. A 1999 survey found 1.27 million regular teleworkers in the UK plus a further three-quarters of a million who telework some of the time. This compares with 20 million US teleworkers. As well as familiarity and confidence with technology, this type of work requires that what you do can be transmitted electronically. This might be possible with a clothes design, for example, but not with an actual sample. Teleworkers usually have reduced face-to-face contact with colleagues and clients, which is replaced by electronic contact. Working Styles B
Maintaining adequate communication between other employees or with customers
Possible delay in customer service
Potential viruses are detrimental to company’s systems now that employees have e-mail access.
Improved employee retention
Often higher productivity
Less lost hours due to traffic problems
Savings in energy, office space requirements, maintenance and housekeeping.
Increases number of potential candidates for a job
There are fewer cars travelling to and from work, so there’s consequently less pollution.
Isolation from colleagues.
Lack of separation between home and work
More distractions from family
Potential for excessive working hours
Less awareness of changes in company
Fear of being under-managed or 'out of sight, out of mind
Less distractions from co-workers.
More flexibility with organization of daily tasks
Savings in time and commuting costs
Higher job satisfaction
Individual Disadvantages Advantages
Working styles have been greatly affected by the introduction of new technologies in communications, where people work, employment opportunities and the break down of face-to-face internal communications. Technology The use of technology has greatly improved business efficiency. E-mail has changed the way businesses communicate. Instead of writing a letter, for example, it is easier to e-mail. It is more cost effective, and large files can be sent as an attachment with the e-mail. Mobile phones Mobile phones are another important development in recent technologies, now people are contactable wherever they go if they have a mobile phone with them. You are accessible when travelling, in another office, or even in another country. People can work for longer amounts of time because they are always contactable. Communications B
The days of travelling in a peaceful train carriage or eating a quiet meal in a restaurant are clearly over!! The latest mobiles offer internet access and downloadable video clips of your football team scoring their latest goal. Future developments include viewing TV programmes in your mobile. Communications B
Communication Working flexibility/ where people work There is now more working flexibility, as mentioned in communications, things like wireless broadband and remote access enable employees to get access to their files at any time. If you don’t have remote access, there is still the opportunity to e-mail necessary files to yourself. Laptops are another invention which allows for longer working hours. With software such as remote access and wireless broadband people can work anywhere, anytime. Commuters on trains can work on their way to and from work, and if working away from home, work can be done in hotels and with a connection to a mobile phone they can send and receive email. Online Meetings Online meetings, via video conferencing, enable people to have meetings with other offices within the company or in a different country, without actually having to meet up in person. They save time and costs for the company, but they cost money to set up. B
Information on the Internet The internet allows people a world of information at the push of a button. A simple search engine search gives hundreds of relevant websites. This saves time because you can specify an exact search and then your internet browser should allow you to bookmark a website which you wish to visit again. Communication Internal Communications in a Business The introduction of e-mail and mobile phones means that face-to-face contact isn’t necessary because people can just e-mail or text anything they need to say. This can lead to a breakdown of personal relationships in the company. B
Advantages and Disadvantages of using advanced communication technology B The annoyance factor caused by mobile phones, computers etc Ability to use mobile phone when there is a problem Because you are always available, you could end up doing more hours. You can work on your way there, lowering hours you have to be in work. Information can be transferred more easily, so it isn’t always as secure. The internet allows information to be disseminated across the world. You are always contactable, which can be a disadvantage if you want some privacy. Most internet communication services are quick, easy and free. Disadvantages Advantages
Entertainment and Leisure There are web sites dedicated to locating entertainment and leisure activities: http://www.theleisurewebsite.co.uk/ The example below shows how to get a listing of all of the gyms in Essex. B Lastminute.com is useful for booking theatre tickets.
Entertainment and Leisure Music The way in which people listen to music has changed dramatically over the past 30 years. Cassettes are becoming obsolete, and even CDs will soon become out-dated. MP3s are taking over, and now people download music and then transfer it onto an MP3 player. The most popular MP3 player is an Apple iPod, but other brands are bringing out players to rival it. MP3 players allow the user to store a large amount of songs onto a single, small device. A USB cable, and some software are supplied with the MP3 player and then songs are transferred from PC to MP3 player. B
Entertainment and Leisure Visual Entertainment From TVs, to Video Cassettes, the visual entertainment industry has now found a new format on which to play film and TV, the Digital Video Disk (or DVD). The DVD is smaller and more compact that a standard video. DVDs have a similar playing time, but they have interactive features, which makes them more appealing. The picture is clearer, and because there’s no tape, there can’t be glitches in the picture, unless the DVD is scratched. DVDs can be played on a variety of devices, the DVD player, the PS2, the XBOX and computers with a DVD drive. DVD players come in the large standard size which is static, but the portable DVD player is becoming more widely spread, and allows the user to watch a DVD wherever they want to. The PS2 and XBOX also play games, and so there is one device for both uses B
Entertainment and Leisure Gaming The gaming industry is a large one, with new consoles and games being constantly worked on. The first commercial games console which could be bought for home usage was the Magnavox Odyssey, and came pre-programmed with 12 games. But the games console world has moved on since 1972, and now most households with children have a PS2, an XBOX or a Gamecube. There are also portable versions available, the Nintendo Gameboy for example. Computer gaming is a different industry altogether. The first computer game, Spacewar, took 200 hours to write! Nowadays computer games are in 3D, with more advanced graphics, and complex plot lines. There are games for children, from which they can learn, which also benefit them by helping them improve their computer skills. B
Entertainment and Leisure Technology is increasingly useful in entertainment and leisure. The introduction of video games, computers, the internet, MP3s, CDs and DVDs have widened the industry considerably. ICT has to be continually developed to keep up with the consumer’s changing needs. Computer games are becoming increasingly realistic and life like. MP3 players have a larger memory because people want the ability to store more songs. Growth has lead to problems of a different nature. In the two years since online poker first tempted punters, the industry has grown from $100,000 in gross rake per day in January 2002 to between a staggering global $2m and $2.5m in 2005. Gamblers Anonymous in the UK report a significant increase in online poker addicts. ( http://www.gamblersanonymous.org.uk/ ) On the positive side poker software developers with programmes that teach the game are having a bonanza!! The online entertainment and leisure industry can often have a detrimental effect of family lives. Time for family leisure has decreased and has instead been replaced by personal entertainment and leisure time. The socio-digital divide means that elderly people are being increasingly left out of the digital era. Their reluctance to use new technologies, as well as their bad memory and slower learning abilities contributes to their alienation. B
Education Education has been widely affected by the internet. In this section, I will be looking at how the internet, and technology, has affected online learning and children at school. Learners at school The internet provides a world of information for children to see. From online encyclopaedias to homework help websites. The BBC has an entire section on its website devoted to Schools, where there are sites for revision, message boards where teenagers can chat about work, an SOS teacher (which searches through message boards about school work to help find a solution) and fun games which help children learn. B
Education Learners at school As well as various websites for learning, there is an unlimited amount of software available for them. Encarta is updated every year, which is good because it keeps it up to date, but it is quite an expensive program to buy. Other software includes things such as Lett’s Revision Sets which aid with revision at GCSE level. The internet also provides a new face to lessons at school, with nearly all schools in the UK having at least one ICT suite. Lessons become more interesting for children when they are able to use computers. B
Education Online Courses There is a wide variety of online courses available, some of the best are on Learn Direct. You pay online, and then you learn via the internet and/or CD Rom. There are sections of your course which you must complete each week. And each learner is assigned a personal tutor who will help you through your course, and with whom you communicate about your course. The range of courses is big, and ranges from Japanese to Marketing. B
Education Online Learning Online learning is useful in that it can be used to supplement school lessons and encourage pupils to carry on learning at home. This makes for a smooth continuation of the learning process. However, this becomes a problem with students who’s parents cannot afford the hardware and software equipment at home to do this. Online learning can become frustrating when problems occur and there is no-one to discuss the problems with. Ideally there should be someone who is available when doing online work. The other problem with online courses is finding the motivation to study alone. It’s often much more enjoyable to study with friends, work in pairs and do group work than work in isolation. B
Online shopping affects the lives of many, including:
People living in rural areas.
And people with children.
People living in rural areas can’t get out to shops much, and so online shopping is good for them. Their shopping can be delivered to them, without trekking out to the shops.
The disabled may find shopping a hassle, especially in crowded shops, online shopping allows everybody to search through those sales racks without having to move from their desk.
The same goes for those with children, people don’t want to be dragging small children around shops, and small children don’t want to be dragged around. Online shopping is easier because there are no closing times or queues.
Security with your details can be an issue, although larger chain stores (i.e. Debenhams, River Island) have secure websites where you put in your details.
There are no crowds, making shopping quicker.
There are sometimes stock problems, so you have to do your seasonal shopping earlier.
There’s no queuing for tills.
You don’t get the products immediately, and you have to pay shipping costs.
You can shop around more easily, and so save money.
There is no personal communication, so you could be quite lonely.
You can shop online at whatever time you want to.
You can’t see the products.
Parking isn’t an obstacle.
Banking and Shopping Online Banking Online banking is still a relatively small industry, as most people prefer to use banks which they can visit. Although the industry is becoming increasingly large, and more and more banks moving into the digital age and providing online services for customers. Online banking benefits those who move abroad a lot or work unsociable hours. Transactions can be carried out from anywhere in the world, as long as there is a computer and internet provider. So if you’re abroad and there’s a problem with your bank account, it can be sorted easily online. People who work night shifts for example, and can’t go into the bank because it’s shut when they’re sleeping, can sort out their bank accounts without having to take time off work. But whilst online banking is greatly beneficial to certain people, there are always issues such as security to consider before opening an online account. B
Conclusions Life in the information age means I need never leave the house again!! With my mobile phone I can talk to friends and order take-aways. I can send emails and do all of my shopping online – including ordering my groceries from Tescos supermarket. There are thousands of online training courses I can do to self-improve and when I need a break I can download my favourite music videos and play online computer games. I can telework as a part-time computer programmer to earn some money. Clearly there is a need to achieve a school/work-life balance. There are documented cases reported in the national newspapers of people taking the above services to extremes – one schoolboy developed a deep vein thrombosis after having sat at his computer for 32 hours playing computer games. There is also the issue of social interaction and getting out of our houses to help those less fortunate than ourselves. Life in the information age has a myriad of benefits, but we must be the master of technology and not let it turn us into its slave. B