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Impact of Computers on Work Environments

Instructor: Lyna Griffin

Lyna has tutored undergraduate Information Management Systems and Database Development. She has a Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering and a Masters degree in Information Technology.

In this lesson, we will look at the impact computers have on the work environment. We will discuss the impacts on privacy, ethics, general efficiency, and the work environment as a whole.

The Workplace Before

We pay as much attention to the presence of computers in our work environment today as we do to the electricity that runs them. It takes a deliberate pause in thought to actually recognize the impact technology has on our lifestyle. But, it wasn't always that way. Let us take a peek into what work was like before computers.

You report to the office. You stop by the boss' office to let him/her know you are at work. Your schedule is to follow-up from minutes of meetings, memos, and mail - that stack of paper piled into your 'IN' box. You also check for little yellow pieces of paper that contain written phone messages for calls you need to return.

Privacy

In the past document security and privacy was achieved by storage of paper copies in a locked metal cabinet. Restricting access to sensitive files meant the use private and confidential labels and signature requests accompanying file movements. Saving a document meant keeping it in a file cabinet. Having a private phone call meant closing your door. Privacy violations implied someone went through your briefcase or office drawer.

Efficiency

Efficiency still meant producing results within the stipulated time. With all the paperwork that formed the fabric of the workplace, proper filing methods and organization were crucial. Relaying instructions meant a flow of written memos. Document production involved utilizing carbon copies or slow copying machines. With so much paper at stake, a fire could mean the end of a business.

Ethics

Meetings were held in a room with the other members of the team. Unexpected additions to the agenda of the meeting resulted in meeting interruptions to obtain files from that good ol' cabinet! Inappropriate office behavior was harder to prove in the absence of witnesses or some sort of recording.

The Workplace Today

Privacy Issues

Today, information privacy is secured through protected computers and digital storage facilities. The adoption of intranets and company webmail has eliminated unauthorized peeking and eavesdropping. Access to work documents and information is digitally compartmentalized. Official email addresses and network authentication levels have streamlined who gets access to what and when. Company policies established through confidentiality agreements place a stronger deterrent on company breaches to potentially unfaithful employees.

On the other hand, technology has enabled someone with enough system administrative privileges to digitally look over your shoulder as you work, a clear violation of privacy in some ways. With company owned equipment, proprietary monitoring software can be installed, monitoring every keystroke on that PC. Companies will always seek to secure their assets!

Internal calls can be recorded and email communications monitored. CCTvs monitor your every move and inappropriate behavior can be caught on camera. These actions may be endorsed by company security monitoring and privacy policies, but one must consider when such monitoring starts to veer into questionable privacy violations. The lines on this are blurred.

Ethical Concerns

Ethics generally address right and wrong behavior. Codes of ethics detail right behavior and encourage employees to comply. A clearly stated code of ethics is also a deterrent for lawsuits. Generally, a violation of an ethical code translates to a violation of the law. Security monitoring in a company is a typical example where the lines blur between ethical behavior, trust, and company monitoring policies. Spyware may be deemed as unethical, but also may fall under the security and privacy policies of the company.

On the flip side, company equipment is supposed to be used for work only. With the exception of the designated lunch breaks the rest of the hours spent at work, are for work. Internet access is to be used for the purpose of your work and not personal issues, leisure, or stress release.

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