It’s not a secret that technology has made work processes easier, improved working conditions and simplified communication and the flow of information. It provides workers mobility and it allows people to work from home or anywhere else with internet connection instead of behind a desk. Those who work from home have the flexibility in work schedule and a good work/life balance. “Technology supporters claim that technology improves work relationships because it promotes sharing and collaboration.” (Morency, 2016) This claim means that these supporters believe that technology is working as its meant to. Digitization is seen as a positive for work relationships rather than something harmful. Even though that is true in some cases, that is not for every part of digitization.
On the other hand, the loss of physical closeness to co-workers eventually affects a person’s ability to build relationships in different ways. Instead of meeting a colleague for a coffee break to socialize, they are at home at the table in sweatpants. This might make someone feel isolated and this can affect ones interpersonal skills, which can also have a negative impact on the work relationships they do have. While they might be part of a virtual team, there won’t a lot of time or space for small talk when there is a meeting. Meeting in person not only allows us to hear what they’re saying but it also allows us to read and asses body language, take cues and help determine an appropriate response. It takes away a lot of misunderstandings and creates opportunities to clarify when misunderstanding do arise.
Furthermore, technologies like Skype and Facetime that help to communicate with co-workers create a new way of being present. They are becoming more and more the new face-to-face for many international organizations. A virtual meeting with one of these tools allows us to put effort into changing into more business appropriate clothing. It helps a person put effort into a sitting position, listening, monitor faces and body language to try and still read subtext and cues. Meeting like this helps with communication and engagements skills, even when colleagues are cities or even countries apart. This is even happening with social media. Social networks allow coworkers to communicate and connect with each other, which in its turn make people feel like they are still building relationships. While many companies try to restrict social media usage of workers it’s said that “The surprising truth about social networks is that it fills the humanity gap many global workers feel in cold, impersonal email chains and conference calls.” (Burg, 2013)
Finally, It’s important to have communication and interpersonal skills in order to do business or even connect with co-workers and customers. Even if you have never learned these skills, they can be obtained through experience. Communicating with colleagues, peers and the world at large teaches people how to relate to others cultural scope. Technology is great but it’s only as good and effective as the people using it. Many technology platforms are designed to enhance collaboration and interaction thus helping people build and maintain relationships even though they have a great distance between them. Social media, for instance, supports the initial goals of technology. It’s like social media is the new friends, connecting and engaging co-workers. It’s quite clear how digitization is affecting work relationships. On one hand, it allows people to work from anywhere while being connected to the internet, it allows for processes to go faster and allows people to be flexible with working schedules. On the other hand, it can feel isolating to people and make people less able to improve or even develop important skills like interpersonal skills. Making digitization a great change when it comes to task but sometimes unsatisfactory with the development of skills and socialization of people.