ICT in the Workplace
Computers and internet access have transformed the way many people work:
- businesses rarely produce written letters or reports or use typewriters any more
- documents are more likely to be sent by email than by post or fax
- employees with laptops or smartphones can work from home or while they travel
There are positives to an employee having a computer, especially one with internet access:
- use of email and instant messenger to interact with colleagues and clients
- access a host of information online to help with research-related tasks
But there are negatives too. The internet is full of distractions and employees may prefer to play games, browse and update social networking sites or reply to personal emails and instant messages than to get on with their work.
Employers are aware of this and often block access to certain websites. These restrictions may be relaxed during lunchtime or outside of working hours.
Working from Home
Many employers give their workforce the option to be based at home. A secure internet connection provides access to the company’s network, shared files, email and printers.
Employees can use the company’s email system to keep in touch with the office. There are also a number of other ways of communicating. They can:
- divert their office phone to their mobile phone or smartphone
- browse the intranet to keep up to date with company developments
- take part in meetings using video conferencing
- There are advantages and disadvantages to working from home for both the employer and employee.
Advantages and disadvantages for the employee:
|No travel costs or time wasted travelling to and from work||It can be lonely working from home and they may not feel part of a team|
|Working in the comfort of their own home||There are arguably more distractions at home than in the office|
|Option to work for a company hundreds or even thousands of miles away||It may prove difficult to separate work from home life|
|Able to spend more time with their family|
Advantages and disadvantages for the employer:
|No need to provide employee with a desk or computer if they choose to use their own||Harder to check what employee is up to|
|Employee may be happier working from home and do more work as a result||Employee may not feel part of a team and might end up doing less work|
Technology has changed the way people shop and the way that shops and retailers operate. The range of products available online continues to grow and people are increasingly more confident buying online. Almost anything can be bought on the internet, including electronics, furniture, books, CDs, DVDs and food.
Some companies only operate online and do not have high street stores. This keeps their costs down and results in cheaper prices for customers.
The rise of online stores has created a range of new jobs for people who build, design and run the websites. Shopping online has its advantages but it has its disadvantages too.
Advantages of shopping online
- It’s convenient – it can be done at home, during a lunch break or even on the move using a smartphone
- There’s greater variety – there are more shops online than on any high street or shopping centre.
- It’s easier to compare prices and find the best deal online.
- It’s often cheaper – increased competition between retailers brings down prices.
- It’s accessible – those with a disability that limits their mobility can choose to have goods delivered.
- There’s no need to travel and you don’t have to queue.
Disadvantages of shopping online
You might be uncomfortable entering your credit card details online.
- You cannot physically inspect goods before you buy.
- Goods might get damaged during transport.
- Goods might not arrive on time, or at all.
- You might not be happy with retailers storing information about you, eg your buying habits.
Collecting information about customers
All online stores collect information about their customers but the systems supermarkets use are often superior and lead to improved knowledge and customer service.
Supermarkets let customers order their food online and choose when to have it delivered. Customers can create a list of their favourite items to speed things up. The supermarket has access to this list and it can be remembered for future online shopping activity.
Loyalty cards bring customers rewards but they also keep a record of what the customer is buying. This gives supermarkets access to massive amounts of data and they can tell a lot about their customers’ preferences and shopping habits from it.
Supermarkets can tell a lot about a customer based on the products they buy and how much they spend, including:
- their social class
- whether or not they have children
- if they have pets
A loyalty card also records the time, date and store location every time it is used.
Supermarkets use this data to:
- decide what products stores should stock, along with quantities
- make sure they have appropriate staffing numbers, during busy and quiet periods
- send special offers to the customer on products they frequently buy or to encourage them to buy new products
New ways to Access Entertainment
ICT has changed the way we access entertainment. Some people now prefer to:
- read news on the internet instead of buying a newspaper or magazine
- download and read books on e-readers instead of reading traditional paper books
- download or stream music and films from the internet instead of buying CDs or DVDs
- download games instead of buying the CD or DVD
- watch TV after it’s aired using online catch-up services like BBC iPlayer and 4OD
Streaming movies and music is growing in popularity. Instead of downloading the movie, song or album, you pay to access it or stream it for a set period of time. Once that period of time is over you must pay for it again.
The move towards digital downloads has caused a lot of concern for the industry and copyright owners. It’s easier now than ever to share books, magazines, music and movies with family, friends or complete strangers. This breaks copyright law because you do not have the copyright owner’s permission to share it and those you’re sharing it with did not pay for it. This is piracy.
Bands, authors and production companies make less money as a direct result of piracy. This may result in fewer books being written, songs and albums being released, and films being made because there is less incentive for artists and authors.
Employment and the Environment
Technology can mean that certain roles in a company are no longer required. New jobs are created but it is uncertain whether ICT has created or reduced opportunities in the long term.
Advancements in technology have had a huge impact on the entertainment industry. The growing popularity of downloading and streaming content has affected the traditional supply chain, ie the process of getting a product made and into the hands of a consumer.
- Fewer raw materials are required as the demand for physical media is reduced.
- Factories that produced and packaged books, magazines, CDs and DVDs.
- Packaging companies see a drop in orders.
- Delivery companies have less to deliver.
- Warehouses aren’t as full as they once were and stock management is less of a concern.
- High-street stores struggle to compete with the prices and the convenience of shopping online.
All of the above leads to fewer employees and people lose their jobs. But new jobs that require different skills have taken their place, for example:
- developers and designers have to build the online store or website
- the server that the website runs on needs to be built and supplied
- the content needs adding to the server
- all of the information about a song, album or movie must be entered into the website’s database
- the server and website must be maintained
All of these jobs require an employee to have advanced IT skills. This is true of many jobs today in the Technology industry and many employees undergo extensive retraining to enable them to remain in work.
It’s important to wipe any sensitive or personal information from a computer before disposing of it. There are companies that provide this service.
ICT can benefit the environment, for example it has given people the option to work from home, reducing the need to travel into work. However, it can have a negative impact. Disposing of old equipment is a particular problem. One of the answers is recycling and the law states that companies must recycle their old equipment.
Health and Safety
Working at a computer for long periods of time carries certain health risks. Taking frequent screen breaks and exercising your eyes are advisable for anyone who works on computers all day.
Getting comfortable and avoiding hazards
When you’re sitting at your computer or laptop you need to be comfortable. It’s also important that:
- the desk and surrounding area is neat and tidy
- cables are out of the way, so they are not tripped over
- food and drink is kept away from electrical items
- plug sockets are not overloaded
- your screen doesn’t reflect light from the room or from outside
- the room you’re in is well lit to avoid eye strain when looking at the screen
- your eyes are level with the top of the screen
In the workplace
There are laws covering the use of computers in work. An employer must provide:
- adjustable screens
- adjustable chairs
- correct lighting
- regular eye tests
These laws do not cover students in school or college.