Why are we working harder?

Why is it that in the modern day, with all the automated technology (computers and smartphones) that is available at our fingertips, why are our work days longer? Surely all our labour saving devices and software should make our days easier. I remember when computers were becoming more mainstream, and there were those predictions which indicated that by 2010 we would only need to work 3 days a week. What happened? Is it just me, or are things now increasingly more complicated resulting in us working longer hours? Are we doing things with computers just because we can, or is there a purpose? Is the technology we have serving the needs of our business or unnecessarily complicating it?
If you told me that jobs were becoming more complicated, I would agree. Accountants used to use manual ledgers to balance their books, now we have accounting software that has far more functionality. Modern cars today are significantly more complicated with better features and safety than in the past, and in real terms the price has not increased. But, what happened to the promises of labour saving? Why is it not simpler and easier? Perhaps it is due to increased compliance? Maybe a competitive business environment means that the marketing process has necessitated a degree of complexity as our tools improve. On the other hand, are just doing it wrong?
Recently, a colleague was bemoaning the fact that their business was scanning all their paper records, to ensure that they had a soft copy of all the records of their clients. Although some of the records dated back many years, for various reasons, this data could not be just thrown away. I am sure that some of us have been in a situation where we require information from various agencies for employment, medical purposes, or for applications etc., but realistically, how often does this occur? My main concern was not about the scanning process, rather it was focused on the collation that was required to attach these individual files to the correct record. The time taken to scan and then process the record to great accuracy did not outweigh the benefit it was to bring for one enquirer. The implications to the business on additional data storage requirements and reduced access speeds would simply increase operational overheads.
My experience, has been that there are many business’ not collecting the data they need to make informed decisions. Just because we have the capability and capacity and resourcing to throw at a job, it does not necessarily mean that it will produce the desired outcome. Computers and the automation they enable are a fantastic tool. Using them appropriately for the right job is the next challenge facing businesses who want to thrive in today’s world. It’s worth asking the following question in everything you are doing; is it worth doing and if so can we automate it?

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