Tech and productivity: the perfect match, or growing apart?

Image: Tech and productivity: the perfect match, or growing apart?

The technology age has ushered in unseen levels of productivity worldwide. There can be no doubt that the advent of computers gave businesses a huge productivity shot, as of 2013 giving workers a huge boost of 84% an hour compared to the rate of the 1970’s worker. Yet, for some, such productivity is said to be underwhelming when cross examined with the huge tech advances that have occurred, citing a so called ‘productivity paradox’. With this said, as our technology becomes more and more advanced, will our efficiency follow suit?

An initial game changer
The internet is often labelled the great business leveller. When Tim Berners-Lee’s brain child hit the mainstream, it changed the enterprise landscape forever. For the first time ever, the world was interconnected, and this meant everyone had global reach, not just large corporations. The initial invention of the humble email, the power of word processors and the beginning of the use of databases meant huge shortcuts in time. The introduction of major tech in the 1970’s was a complete productivity revolution, and had many excited about the endless potential for productivity in the future. However, growth and productivity have levelled out after their initial meteoric 70’s rise…

The productivity paradox
Once we entered the 90’s, productivity levelled out and disappointed those who saw no end to the growth. Just why this phenomena occurred is subject to much debate. Academic Erik Brynjolfsson labelled this the ‘productivity paradox’ – the act of tech investment not producing the expected productivity rise. Technological advances are popping up almost daily, so why are workers productivity not following suit? One theory is that our mechanical measurements of productivity are now outdated, with it much harder to label types of productivity in our modern age. Some claim huge leaps have been made in an individual’s work/life balance, with the ability to work remotely and quicker having huge benefits that crude stats miss. After all, a happier worker means more high quality work. Whatever the reason, the productivity paradox has many worried- but it’s worth taking a step back and looking at the context.

The future…
So our tech-related productivity shot up, and then levelled out, so what next? A future of poor productivity and economic turmoil? Certainly not. For all the talk of a productivity paradox, the workplace is now a bustling hub of interconnected capabilities and infrastructure, and remarkably, considering the picture painted, productivity continues to rise. Stats suggest an increase of 2.5% per year, with a 22% increase predicted by 2020 as internet speed and other capabilities increase. In short, whilst rises seen in the initial stages have the tech revolution have not been replicated, it probably wasn’t realistic to expect this. As long as productivity continues to rise, tech investment continues to be a worthwhile decision

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