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Just like the Industrial Revolution of the Victorian era, the more-recent digital revolution has had a huge effect on people’s lives, both at home and work. And it’s fair to say that the effects have been positive and negative.

The Industrial Revolution led to mass-production for the first time with huge factories blighting the landscape and improved transport links across the country. Standards of living went up for some, while others experienced terrible poverty, as workers flocked to work at the factories and often ended up living in horrible cramped conditions. The work was dangerous and it took a long while for workers’ right to come into force.

Many workers also saw their jobs replaced by machines for the first time too, leading to more poverty and hardship.

Today’s parallels are obvious. People are still replaced by machines, although not to the same extent.  And it’s not the huge, steam-powered machines in factories and fields doing the replacing anymore, it’s tiny microchips and hard drives in business parks and city centre offices that are doing work previously done by humans now.

In most organisations, the effect of technology on people is to make their lives easier. Thanks to computers, smartphones and tablets we can communicate faster than ever. Want to talk to a colleague? Compose a quick email and they’ll get it in seconds anywhere in the world no matter what the time is. Nor more relying on a telegram or the electric telegraph of the Industrial Revolution. And don’t forget the snail mail or fax we all used not that long ago– they’re so last decade.

Now, almost everything we do at work is done using a computer of some sort. We store and share data, hold information about everyone in an organisation, and perform all sorts of tasks (like writing this blog) on one. We don’t even need to be in the same office to work together.  In our connected world, the internet makes it possible to talk to anyone, anywhere whenever they’re on line.

Here’s where we get some of the negative impacts of technology on people. Being connected also makes it more difficult to switch off. Reading emails, texts and social media messages means it can be tricky to truly switch off and get valuable downtime. Guilt kicks in and fear of being the only people who didn’t read the message take over.

Social isolation can also be a negative impact. By not having that regular face-to-face interaction, loneliness can creep in as people communicate virtually, and only have their screens for company. We’ve talked a lot about mental health and wellness in organisations, and how it’s important to keep human contact with people. Even having a coffee and a chat with someone or making sure they see others fairly regularly can have a big impact on their mental health.

The rate at which technology changes affects some too. In Victorian times, those who opposed technology were known as luddites. This group went used to destroy machines and factories during the Industrial Revolution as a protest. Today’s ‘luddites’ probably won’t go as far as that, but they’ll struggle to get to grips with the speed of change, and may need a bit of extra help. More often than not, it’s a change of mind-set that’s needed.

So, the impact of technology on people – good or bad? We think it’s a bit of both. Let’s hear your thoughts please.