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We still read paper books, despite the emergence of tablets and e-book readers like the Kindle. We still visit physical stores, even though online shopping was supposed to take over retail years ago. More vinyl records sales hit a 25 year high in 2016, 500% more than 2013 figures.

“New technologies, it turns out, do not always replace the old. They can sometimes co-exist, as the limitations of the old technology are rediscovered as its virtues,” points out author Andrew Coyne giving the example of the typewriter. “You can’t correct or amend what you’ve written, or not as easily as you can on a computer. Good: that means you are more apt to compose the sentence in your head before committing it to paper. Clearer, less cluttered writing is the likely result.”

It seems that technological advancement does not work in a straightforward way, or that we as humans often prioritise feel and experience over practicality and performance. This point is about more than just typewriters and vinyl record players; the impact of this “analogue counter-revolution” can be felt across society. Our latest report explores the evolution of technology, but also the impact of the analogue counter-revolution, within the workplace environment.

“The analog counter-revolution appears not to be just a hipster fad; it represents a fundamental human need for substance in our increasingly virtual world. Our dreams of a smart-tech-utopia in the workplace may be misguided if they do not consider the importance of realness in the human experience,” reads an extract from The Future Workplace: Smart Office Design in the Internet of Things Era.

While striving for greater and greater levels of productivity companies have often adopted the latest technological innovations in their workplaces but this idea suggests that technology is not always the answer. In order to explore this issue, and others, Memoori conducted a survey of office workers and their relationship to the changing workplace technology landscape.

One question in particular cut to the core of the issue; “Would workplace productivity be improved by adding more or less technology?”to which, a compelling 60.3% of the respondents say that their productivity levels have nothing to do with technology at all.

A deeper look at the results also unearths some surprising trends. The report organised the respondents by age group, and while many might have expected the tech savvy youth of today to be leading the charge on the greater adoption of technology the results suggested quite the opposite.

In fact the worker age group with the biggest sense that technology does not impact their productivity were the 18 – 24 year olds with 64.1%. The 18 – 24 year old group also have the lowest percentage of respondents who believe less technology would be more beneficial for productivity. While the age group with the greatest percentage proponents of technology for improved productivity (34.7%) were the oldest respondents, 55 – 64 year olds.

Perhaps technology can be more distracting to younger age groups who more commonly use modern forms of technology for social and entertainment purposes. Maybe older groups have seen the productivity benefits of generations of workplace technology trends. The report also considered other demographic differences such as gender to examine technology’s role in the future workplace.

“Whether male or female, old or young, the end user is an essential element of the workplace technology discussion. With the general theme of workplace technological development tending towards greater focus on the employees and increasing the control of the individual, feedback from those end users will be central to enterprise’s technology investment decisions,” the report suggests.

The stage is set for our future workplaces to take shape, but the industry would be wise to take notice of the fundamental human need for “realness” and usability as highlighted by the analog counter-revolution. The future workplace should be focused on the actual needs of workers, not just designing new technology in hope that it increases worker productivity.

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