The winter of discontent outdated tech can cause

How productive has your laptop made you today? What about your smartphone or tablet? Has your desktop PC boosted the amount you’ve gotten done?

Most of us would probably not be sure how to answer these questions, especially if you’ve been using the same technology for a long time. Yet it’s the natural stage of a conversation Toshiba of Canada tried to start earlier this week when it published the results of an online survey of Canadians that tried to make a link between buying new technology and curing the “winter blues.”

According to Toshiba’s research, 55 per cent of Canadians experience the “winter blues.” What’s more intriguing -- and what feels like a bit of a stretch, quite frankly -- is that 80 per cent said of those people said they lean on technology to make them feel better. For example, 51 per cent said they keep music libraries on work devices, while 57 per cent keep some kind of personal content that cheers them up, while 10 per cent admitted they use business machines to consume “not safe for work” (NSFW) sites and videos.

How any of this translates into business productivity seems a little murky, but according to Sherry Lyons, director of marketing and communications at Toshiba of Canada, the benefits come from users not only being able to use professional technology for their private purposes, but using new devices. According to the survey, 62 per cent of workers are hoping to get new laptops this year and 48 per cent want a tablet.

“(We’re hoping that) employers see the need to upgrade their technology,” based on the data, she said. Instead of moping about the bone-chilling temperates, “it’s about getting back to work, setting your goals, getting things organized.” Having updated tools to work with helps with that, she said.

While the notion that technology can have as big an influence on office moods as, say, sunshine, is tenuous. Anyone who works in a large Canadian company knows that ancient technology does create a bad vibe among colleagues. According to IDC Canada, in the last few years the technology refresh cycle -- the frequency with which businesses replace older stuff -- just keeps getting longer. Back in the late 1990s, it wasn’t uncommon to see new PCs given to workers every three years. Now it’s more like five years, according to IDC, and almost as long for laptops.

What Toshiba and other companies may need to explain a little better is that new hardware and software doesn’t necessarily make people more productive, but ridiculously old hardware and software can really slow things down. It’s the waiting for 20 minutes for a 2007-era PC to boot up in the morning, or the slow pace of transferring files from an aged laptop. And because so many people are now using their work machines for pleasure, some of these issues only get worse.

Giving someone a new device in January might be a bright moment in an otherwise dark season, but make no mistake: if antiquated IT is causing a problem in your office, it’s a problem year-round.

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