Life in a digital world

Our life has transformed as we transition from an analog to a digital world. We are connected 24 x 7 through technology. Apart from connected devices, cloud computing and artificial intelligence, our world seems digitised in more ways than one.

We get up with an alarm from an AI digital assistant and end the day listening to music on an app. The time in between getting up and sleep is digitally controlled. We look at the news app more than the newspaper for our news update. We book a cab using a hailing app rather than the traditional black and yellow cab at the taxi stand.

Our breakfast may be pre-cooked in the microwave using a pre-programmed instruction through AI. Then as we proceed to work in a cab, we clear our pending emails on the mobile. Our connected watch may remind us of the appointments in the calendar.

As we enter office, the digital board at the entrance reminds us of the key happenings at work. Then the laptop or tablet is the enabler at work for emails, conferences and scheduling the day.

We use our mobile again to book a quick lunch through a food hailing app as we have no time to have a sumptuous lunch at the canteen chatting with colleagues at work. The day zips past as if it is less than 9 hours at work. We are busy interacting only with our mobile phone and laptop and do not have the time even to wish our colleagues at work.

Our workplace has transformed due to the impact of digitalisation. The business planning cycles have shrunk from years to months and now weeks. The workplace has transformed into spending more time with laptops and machines rather than people around us.

The business models are getting disrupted. Technology like artificial intelligence, data analytics, cloud computing etc are changing the way we think and respond to our customers. The response times have dramatically changed and the so has our definition of competition.

Which is our market ? Who are our customers ? Who are our competitors ? Every thing is changing. The speed of change is faster than the change itself. What we think as impossible today becomes a reality tomorrow. Our customers and competitors are getting redefined in every way.

Then as we return home in the evening, we are busy on social media to wish friends and relatives for their birthdays, anniversaries and promotions. We neither have the information in our memory nor the time to wish anyone in person. Sometimes we end up wishing our own family members only on social media although we may stay together at home.

We then reach home and are busy on our mobile or tablet to look at movies, sitcoms or games to relieve ourselves of all the stress and strain of the day. We are oblivious of all our family members around us at home and do not have time or the energy to even talk to them or listen to their stories.

Life seems hectic in every way possible. We seem to be racing against time always. Technology seems to make us lonely and less emotional in all our relationships. We do not seem to know our neighbours at home nor our colleagues at work except by email ids and social media identities.

How can organisations help individuals cope with such a stressful life ? Helping employees balance life and work is possible in many ways . Some of initiatives at organisational level in this direction have been :

– 24 x 7 free counselling services for employees and their family members

– Healthy break ( exercise for 3 minutes) twice a day at work

– Programmes like “Fit for life” & Enrich your life” for different employee segments

– Health and wellness interventions at the workplace

– Flexibility of working hours and work from home policy

– Sabbatical & Volunteering leave

I sometimes wonder whether such a life is worth it. I am not sure. If I look back at my own life, I had all the time in the world in the past. I was never in a hurry at home or at work. I always remembered the telephone numbers of all my family members and friends in my brain memory. I never forgot to wish friends, family or colleagues at work on their birthdays or anniversaries.

Today I wonder if technology has enabled me or disabled me to be a good human being. May be it is unfair for me to blame technology for my current state. I may be more to blame than the digital technology around me. Instead of managing technology to my benefit, I have allowed technology to rule my life.

It is time to challenge ourselves. Digital technology has been invented to make our life better and more comfortable. It is up to us to use technology effectively. Let us learn to attach and detach from technology as we think it is appropriate. Let us not end up in a health centre for digital detoxification.

Th GPS in the car is very useful to guide you to your destination as in the photo above. It can take you to any place on earth without any knowledge of the route.

Time to digitally attach or detach is now.

S Ramesh Shankar

24th October 2018

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