Modern comms tools can shut out workers

The use of technology to support communication and collaborative working in an increasingly digital and flexible world is something many of us recognise. However, a global study released today by Avast Business claims this technology is potentially causing a divide in the workplace, with 40 percent of UK respondents concerned that less tech literate employees will be ‘shut out’ unless they embrace the latest chat, collaboration and digital project management tools.

Tools such as Slack (which recently announced its ambition to replace emails in the workplace), WhatsApp and Yammer are firmly established in many companies, particularly among those that embrace flexible working. According to the study, which had over 3,500* respondents in five countries (1,000 in the UK), 50 percent of Brits think that people who are more accustomed to using this technology to communicate and collaborate are more likely to be promoted. This is reflected on a global scale with 65 percent of workers believing that those using technology to communicate are more likely to rise quickly through the ranks.


Tech literacy and the workplace divide

The largest proportion of those who believe that embracing technology driven communication is key to promotion were aged 18-34 (59 percent) while a far smaller proportion of over 65’s (37 percent) shared this view.

The study did illustrate however, that concern about the digital divide is not limited to older generations. A fifth (20 percent) felt that technology creates a digital skills gap in the workplace. In the UK, 47 percent of over 65s believe people get left behind if they do not embrace technology driven communication tools, and a similar proportion (40 percent) of 18-34 year olds shared the same worries.


Impact on relationships

A potential reduction of face-to-face contact was another concern cited by 59 percent of UK respondents; more than a quarter (28 percent) feel that using emails and messaging apps can create cliques and sub-groups. 53 percent cited colleagues hiding behind electronic communication rather than speaking in person or on the phone as another negative consequence.

There was also, however, a positive recognition of the benefits of these tools, with 65 percent of UK respondents saying that being able to communicate at any time with colleagues is a positive, and more than half (56 percent) acknowledged that technology helps open up communication opportunities for people in any location globally. Less than half (49 percent) said it helps people from different locations feel more connected.


A code of conduct

On the back of these results, Avast Business recommends businesses develop a code of conduct to support all employees. Guy Oakley, Global Web Director, Avast Business said: “Having these insights gives employers a great opportunity to take a look at the digital code of conduct they lay out for employees around the usage of technology in the workplace.

“In an age of flexible working, these digital communication and collaboration tools can prove invaluable, but before simply rolling them out there are three questions every business needs to ask: what technology do we need in our workplace and why?; how can I ensure all employees can use this to make it attractive for younger employees and inclusive for older ones?; and how should I outline the values we expect employees to model when using technology for work?

“It’s not just about using technology effectively – businesses and employees also need to understand the interpersonal issues that may arise as a result. Whether it’s a less open environment for discussion in the workplace or a need to provide IT skills education to mitigate security risks, businesses need to ensure the correct processes and support are in place so that everyone can benefit and not feel their career has been hindered by technology.”