Bad tech brings down productivity: Study

‘It is not just a component; it is a foundational aspect of having a good employee experience’

Bad tech brings down productivity: Study

When employees are exposed to a bad technology experience while on the job, it can mean a 30 per cent reduction in productivity, according to new research.

“If you spend a day with bad technology, you’re likely to need three days after that to recover from the stress incurred by that experience,” says Mohammed Chahdi, director/head of America’s HR operations for Dell Technologies in Toronto. “We were a bit surprised by how deep the impact is to people’s brains and stress levels.”

And this isn’t just an IT issue or an HR issue -- this is also a C-suite issue, he says.

“The 30 per cent number is enough to start the conversation around: ‘We are losing a day and a half a week of work because of the technology experiences,’ and for me that calls for action to understand what’s at stake and how we can address that for every company,” says Chahdi.

“A productive and healthy workforce is one that is more likely to deliver a better value to the customer and one that is more likely to thrive, more likely to be engaged so you’d want to set that environment to be optimum for your workforce to be at their best.”

Brain sensing technology

In early 2020, the company partnered with EMOTIV, a portable brain sensing technology company, and had 30 volunteers (aged 19 to 59) go through a series of computerized tasks that replicated everyday business procedures such as writing emails, creating documents and spreadsheets and attending virtual meetings.

When bad tech intervened (such as not having enough bandwidth, being faced with insufficient memory, or experiencing security and operating system update failures), the participants’ brain waves were measured.

Employees who used good tech were found to be 37 per cent more productive, than those who had a bad tech experience.

The research dives into the newer area of neuroscience, says Chahdi.

“It’s not necessarily people’s opinions or observations, this is diving into how their brains undergo the technology experience and what has a positive or negative impact [on] productivity but also the overall well-being of the workforce.”

Mohammed Chahdi

Working with better technology also helps save time for workers, found the research. For each hour worked, participants saved 23 minutes or 15 hours over a traditional 40-hour workweek. 

Remote work implications

With both children and adults working from home a lot these days, the ubiquity of technology in people’s daily lives has to be addressed, he says.

“If the kids cannot connect to school or, worse, they are almost done with their homework online and suddenly the system crashes, you can imagine how that exponentially increases the stress level and the frustration and can totally change what the outcome of that exercise is.”

A poor experience could also hijack virtual wellness events that many companies have undertaken since the pandemic began, says Chahdi.

“There’s nothing more ironic then if somebody’s calling into a wellness session, whether that’s yoga or what have you, and then you have 20 or 30 per cent of staff not being able to get online. The frustration defeats the whole purpose of even trying to get online to get wellness.”

Almost 20 per cent of employers have boosted their wellness benefits maximum levels in light of the pandemic, according to the Conference Board of Canada.

Younger workers take it hard

Younger workers such as millennials and generation Z also performed twice as poorly with bad tech experiences versus older workers, says Chahdi.

“It’s a generation that has grown up with technology in a much more dominant way. If we talk about gen Z, as an example, the average age to which they had access to technology is much younger and [was] embedded… in their every day and when you compound all that and shift it to a workforce scenario, that generation has a much higher expectation when it comes to having a seamless technology experience.”

That makes a difference when it comes to hiring young workers, he says.

“When we talk about [offering] that seamless and positive employee experience, you’d want to be top notch. And you’re competing with social media companies that provides this consumer-driven type of technology experience and you don’t want to be in contrast to that when you’re providing your employee experience.”

Because technology plays an ever-larger role in how people earn their living, says Chahdi, the experience must be positive for workers to perform at their best.

“We can’t all predict that today at 9 a.m., we would be productive or creative… we can have our coffee, and you can have the right environment [but] if you inject the technology experience as a component of the overall value proposition within the employee experience, what we get out of this study is that it is not a component, it is a foundational aspect of having a good employee experience.” 

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