We have the technology, now tell us how to use it
OFFICE workers waste up to a month a year trying to figure out how to use their computers properly because modern technology is so complicated, a new study warns.
Trying to get their heads round difficult programmes on the PC is costing firms both time and money, often because no-one has taught employees what to do.
The demands of the 21st century office leave almost one in five workers (17 per cent) struggling to get their heads round simple tasks asked of them, according to the report.
Professor Christopher Johnson, of Glasgow University's human computer integration group, said the problem was that employers expected more from their workers.
"People in offices are now getting into the situation that they are under pressure to learn lots of new software.
"Software packages are becoming easier to use, but because there are so many packages to learn it is becoming harder to be able to use them all.
"We have become so reliant on technology that if something goes wrong then the time is increased to fix it," he said.
"For example if a worker was to accidentally drop their mobile into a water it would take far longer to retrieve all the numbers than if a diary was to get wet, as all you would do is dry it over the radiator.
"The more information we keep the more it takes to store and access it," Prof Johnson said. "However, I can sympathise with workers, as I think that training is a defeat of the design. If you need training to use it then that defeats the purpose.
"You want to be able to pick up a gadget in the office and be able to use it."
He added: "The usability of computer packages is key, so we need to make sure that all packages are very simple and therefore accessible."
The survey of 500 workers and 300 bosses by the training body City & Guilds found that workers spent 10 per cent of their time battling against computer programmes or getting to grips with phones, handheld devices and other gadgets, equating to a month a year.
Thirty-seven per cent say they are frustrated by not being able to handle the technology.
About a third (32 per cent) of workers say they have failed to receive training from their company to teach them to use the technology in the office.
Almost a fifth of bosses (18 per cent) now dismiss staff by saying their skills are not up to scratch with more than half (51 per cent) admitting it adversely affects productivity levels.
Alan Mitchell, the assistant director of the Confederation of British Industry Scotland, said companies were shooting themselves in the foot if they failed to provide training in office software packages.
"The figure that we are losing a whole month does seem awfully high, especially when major firms introduce training with new packages.
"I just can't see a typical Scottish company not providing training, but I suspect there must be some firms having this problem if employees are finding difficulties with software packages.
"There is no doubt that technology enables us to do bigger and better things now, but you do need training."
Ben Knight, a business support specialist at the training institute City & Guilds, said technology was improving faster than the average worker's ability to understand it without being shown how.
He said: "With ever-evolving technology in the workplace, increased demands are being placed on our workforce.
"Nowadays, employees are expected to know how to navigate complex computer programmes and a greater amount of administration work, as well as their day-to-day jobs.
"This places huge pressure on staff, and can have serious consequences on their productivity as well as their stress levels," added Mr Knight.
The survey follows world usability day last Thursday, which was formed by professionals to promote the manufacture of user-friendly products.
Tom Stewart, the joint managing director of a London-based training company System Concepts, said: "My worry is that the world has so far to go in making technology usable that I fear that celebrating usability is premature, and conceals just how much hassle we put up with on a daily basis."
Rajesh Anandakrishnan, of the Usability Professionals Association, said: "Any product should be tested with the customer, at each level.
"This will help rectify problems then and there."
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