Tech & Teambuilding

The question of whether technology fosters or impairs true team-building is a complex one. Some companies excel at producing models that champion an inclusive all-hands-on-deck sort of space — Google to name one. But, outside the tech and startup industry, how has expanding technologies changed the face of the workplace?

In a recent Fast Company article exploring this topic, Google Human Resources Director Dr. Todd Carlisle gave some insights into the complex debate, adding even more complexity to the issue. From Carlisle’s prospective whilst observing Google employees, managers who have less direct communication with their direct-reports in regards to discussions that require face-to-face time, were less adept at communication. The decision to have a tech versus in-person meeting has its nuances and managers must determine the best ways to decipher the difference in order to be effective.

These distinctions can be made by asking questions pertaining to each meeting: what is the purpose? Is it a team meeting? And the like. To know your team is to ask the right questions. Continues Carlisle, “We care that people are happy and productive, and we’re all trying to be flexible around the stuff that happens in life.”

To that end, Google has been highly successful in reaching an accord between tech and humanity by encouraging tech disconnections and well as connections. According to a Google executive, he sets the tone by checking emails only three times a day and expects his employees to follow his lead. This practice also makes him more available for his employees in person.

But what about companies that are not Google? They may not fare as well — especially those trying to cut corners (and human employees) out of the equation by opting for tech advances, computers and A.I. These dehumanizing methods are greatly displacing workers and instilling fear in those who aren’t always connected, always online, always on the “leash”.

With the silver anniversary of the internet upon us, how we work, play and communicate has drastically changed — sometimes for the worse. Because of email, mobile phones, tablets and the like, the lines of work and play have gotten muddy. People experience more stress, less privacy, less human contact, and a higher risk of lost or hacked data.Technology has also further increased the expectation of instant gratification, which is masked impatience. Where people would have waited weeks for a “snail mail” letter to answer their concerns a decade or so ago, an email or text request that goes unanswered for a few minutes can now create agitation. In other words, as much as it has changed our lives for the better, it has inserted itself into our base anxieties.

“Technology challenges us to assert our human values, which means that, first of all, we have to figure out what they are,” said Sherry Turkle, MIT technology professor.

The birthday of the Web is often cited as March 12, 1989.1 On that date, Sir Tim Berners-Lee produced a document that became the foundation for the web. Whether for good or bad, technology will keep advancing — so must the human design and how it will function within the tech space.