How Has Technology Affected the Way We Work?

By Curtis K. Shelburne

The CBS “60 Minutes” segment I watched recently focused on technology and how it affects the way we work. 

In general, according to the segment, the way Americans work is, well, a lot. The United States was way up toward the top of the list of nations with regard to the number of hours worked per week, but, hmm, we were not too close to the top of the list with regard to productivity.
Enter technology.

You see, one of the reasons we work a lot of hours is directly related to technology. Computers and cell phones, Blackberries and PDAs, and a host of other gadgets not only help us do our work, but they also are fun to play with — I mean, of course, “work” with. We so enjoy messing with them that they addict us to our work.

I’m guilty. Give me a laptop computer, a cup of coffee, a task to perform on the computer, and I’m a happy man. But I was given pause to think when, on a weekend trip to Amarillo to see our kids, I’d taken the computer along only to discover that I’d left its cord (and thus its charging capability) back at home. That meant I had only three hours or so of battery power to last me two days. I almost panicked! I was thumbing through the Yellow Pages, making calls, trying to find a store to sell me a generic cord, and I couldn’t find one — at least, not one less than $100. You’d have thought I was a drug addict panicking as his stash dwindles to nothing.

In the “60 Minutes” piece, one CEO (with more money than sense) was interviewed who had wired his shower so he could take calls and answer e-mails while soaping up.

They interviewed one couple — both serious business people of the sort you’d love to avoid — who between them have more cell phones than they have ears, multiple computers, Blackberries, and the like. The guy wakes up early in the morning and checks and answers e-mail before he leaves the bed. (See, my dear wife, it could be worse.) Rather than walk from room to room and actually talk, the couple often send text messages or e-mails instead. And what’s their little baby’s favorite toy?
It’s a Blackberry! (I wanted to throw up.)

But I liked the part of the interview that showed how Best Buy has increased productivity by letting a number of its corporate staff do their work via technology. “Just do the work; we don’t care where or at what hour. Forget punching the clock.” The down side, at least to me, though not to the company, is that the employees tend to work more hours, not less.

Living to work is, it seems to me, a very sad, poverty-stricken, and destructive way to live. We’re so “wired” that we can work constantly and thus never have to do for even a moment what frightens us the most — stop to think about why we’re working so hard, what we’re really accomplishing, and where, at this breakneck speed, we’re really going.
One day, we’ll stop.

Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at
ckshel@aol.com