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HUMAN FACTORS Eleanor Wynn Xerox Corporation I work in what I consider to be a rather ideal situation in terms of the interface of technology and what needs to be done and the community of people .that I work with. But since I was asked to talk about generalities of human factors, I have included in my talk the work and environment of others in order to describe a range of possibilities and situations. I will also try to include a critical perspective on office automation as well as what I consider to be the ideal kind of perspective. I considered this to be quite a prestigious place to give a talk and I am very pleased to have been invited to talk here. At the same time, I have an image of talking to the establishment. I noticed in preparing my talk the fact that I don't have an interactive television set yet: a style in which I might have addressed some of my remarks to you. However, the comments that I had to make to you the decision-makers, may as a result of watching various 60 minutes specials, be in that style. In fact, a specific television program that influenced me a couple of weeks ago was the McNeil Lehrer Report that included the former speaker from Avon and Karen Nussbaum of the Working Women Organization. What I came away with from watching that program, was that one side kept saying office automation was good; and the other kept saying office automation was bad and we should stop and look at it before we go any further with it. The point is that the state of technology that we have now presents us with the opportunity to really choose what we want to do with office automation, not just in terms of productivity, but also in terms of the kind of environment we want to work in. We are not really driven by a particular kind of technology. We have a very, very versatile sophisticated technology and we have an opportunity to design basically the kind of office environment we want at all the levels. 85
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So, my first exhortation is with regard to choice. Rosy Mrozinski, when he suggest I speak today, asked me to talk about the future. He suggested I talk about predictions and generalities. What I came up regarding the future, is tnat the future is still to be decided and it is to be decided by among other people the people in this room. The technology is not some kind of massive monolithic entity that is going to proceed according to a certain pattern inexorably. In fact, it is very versatile, it is diverse and it offers all kinds of opportunities that we have to choose amongst, and we have to consider lots of different things. So, really the choice is yours. The choice is that of the buyers and the choice is, to some extent, that of the designers and vendors of equipment. In making that choice, I would like to point out there are many kinds of hard-to-measure qualities that really need to be included beyond just productivity statistics. These more human factor qualities will become explicit after choices have been made. I have all kinds of analogies that come to mind. For instance, the bottom line for me in thinking about the kind of job that I want would include a salary range that I would expect. That would be an explicit item of my choice. But I have lots of other implicit dimensions and implicit values that I also believe to be significant. Included, among my implicit values are the kinds of relationships I want to have with the people around me, the kind of hierarchy structure I want to be in, the kind of tools that I will have, the kinds of tasks that I will do, and whether I will have a choice over those items or not. So, these are essentially implicit things that bear very heavily on my choice of work, where I work and whether I am satisfied in my working environment. Office automation is going to have a tremendous impact on the quality of the work and the working environment. In fact, I think it is revolutionary in its impact. Another extremly significant factor will be the change in turn around response to correspondence. I am terrible about answering mail. In fact, if you send me a letter, I am likely not to answer it unless it is something very important like a communication from Dr. Brezezinki. Although, I am not much of a letter answerer at all, I answer my messages, the ones I am going to answer, I answer instantaneously. Further, the moment at which I read something is the moment at which I am most likely to be interested in responding to it. When you have a medium that makes available to you the thing to read and also provides a simple means of replying, it catches the critical moment at which you are most likely to make the response. 86
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I don't know of any statistical studies which truly explore the impact of instant response, but I think it is a really interesting feature: a feature which will signifcantly change the way business is done. Assuming this is but one factor of office automation that will change the office, its work, its enviroment and its structure, there is much more to creating an automated office than a few simple choices. Choices, correct or incorrect, bear significant responsiblity. Office automation is an enormous industry. It is going to keep growing. Whether it is applied well or applied poorly, there is no stopping it. I would just like to exhort everybody to be responsible about its application: to not have a narrow focus of interest, but to look as much as possible at the broader impact of it. Overall, I favor augmentation, not total automation, because that continues skill in jobs. In fact, it adds power, it adds skills, so there are more kinds of quality jobs and fewer routine jobs. I also think that people will work better in an augmented environment. By the same token, I go for multi-functionality and not segmentation. Quality hardware and software answers the kind of human factor questions that people have about whether your workers are going to get headaches and backaches and shoulder aches and eyestrain and everything else. I don't think that is a problem if you give them good equipment. Augmentation also provides a coherent backup for equipment outages. What if the power fails? Do you want to have a lot of workers around that all they know how to do is key things in or do you want to have people wno can get the job done without the system? That is a strong argument for keeping the level of skills up. We need to think now about retraining people. Vendors have programs for training people. I think automation has to become a feature that is taught in our schools, our high schools, junior colleges and so forth. More programming courses, more technological courses, so that people are actually able to manipulate the equipment and not just do single functions on it. We expecially need more technical skills for women. In the past men have had the technical skills and, therefore, they have gotten all of the technical jobs which are high paid and more fun. I would also exhort people to include the high dimension values even though it hurts and even though it means taking a chance and even though it may momentarily effect your bottom line. I think in the long run including quality of choice and quality of working life is going to pay off over all for everybody more than a narrow focus that only looks at the dollar bottom line. 87
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Ultimately, you are going to have to live with the automated office and that is a strong argument about being responsible about it. 88