The turn of the century heralded a seismic shift in the global workplace, spurred by increased globalisation, automation, and digitalization. In the past, traditional work hours were the default, being physically present in the office was expected, work processes were fixed, and employees were issued organisation-certified desktops, laptops, and tools to perform their jobs. There was little flexibility and the workforce had to adapt, no matter how challenging it could be.
In particular, technology such as cloud computing, videoconferencing, telecommuting, workflow collaboration apps, and messaging platforms have uncoupled collaboration from the brick-and-mortar world of desks and water coolers, and empowered every level of staff to realise their most efficient way of producing.
The pandemic has arguably played a great role in accelerating the pace of digital transformation and changed the way we work forever. Here are the five workplace trends that will be dominant.
- The rise of hybrid work – Flexible and decentralised work will continue to be the preferred mode of working as employees and business leaders alike see the benefits of increased productivity and efficiency. Knowledge workers have gained flexibility, time savings, and a better work-life balance because of this, while businesses benefit from operational savings, built-in business continuity, and the opportunity to tap into a global talent pool. More workers are working remotely, which is fueling the growth of telecommuting.
However, hybrid work requires its own set of technologies, including webcams and headsets that deliver a high-quality, immersive video and audio experience. As more conferencing tools are being developed and workers having the increased flexibility to use whichever they are most comfortable with, platform-agnostic solutions will be a top priority for organisations to enable seamless collaboration.
- Video-enabled collaboration – A distributed workforce needs best-in-class communications that take them as close as possible to being with co-workers in a physical office. In addition, messenger apps and collaboration tools have given new meaning to “work anywhere, anytime”. Videoconferencing adoption has seen rapid growth as it is becoming the preferred method to collaborate and communicate in borderless offices. From video-enabled conference rooms to webcams for remote workers, providing employees with high-quality and effective videoconferencing technology is a must to build a collaborative culture.
- The new workplace – Sitting at a desk for eight hours a day is becoming outdated. The role of centralised office spaces will continue to evolve to support new work trends. With a more decentralised workforce, offices will be redesigned for different purposes: collaboration, social interaction, and focused work. This drive for collaboration will create new demand for spaces that spark creativity and bonding. Concentration pods and private corners will become a common fixture while meeting spaces in different configurations will increase. Large boardrooms will still be required for formal meetings but organisations are adding phone booths and smaller huddle rooms which are fully video enabled, for more personal and informal live discussions with anyone, anywhere.
- Technology and data will create a more productive work environment – With more work being done virtually these days, organisations will turn to data analytics to analyse behaviour and technology usage to optimise resource planning. For example, cloud-based device management platforms will allow IT to manage, monitor, and receive insights on productivity – such as the amount of time spent on various devices and applications, common issues they faced, and more. These insights help IT to improve processes, remove obsolete and outdated tools, update firmware remotely, and troubleshoot issues before it escalates.
Addressing the elephant in the room that is social-distancing measures, organisations will also need to ensure that the physical office environment is safe and complies with local regulations. Artificial intelligence solutions can help identify room utilisation rates, count the number of people in a room at any point of time, and set conference room occupancy limits, enabling organisations to adhere to protocols. As companies start planning their return to the office, these room technologies can also help optimise space and resource planning through providing data on how frequently rooms are used, when they are utilised, and for how long. Hands-free and voice-operated technologies will also become more popular in the workplace. Employees will be able to start, stop, and book meetings with simple voice commands, eliminating the need to touch surfaces or controllers for added peace of mind.
- Gen Z’s influence on workspace design – The workforce is receiving an influx of Generation Z employees – those born between 1996 and 2010. As a digitally native generation, this group works in different ways, bringing unique challenges and preferences to the traditional workplace. Having grown up with social media platforms, Gen Zs are highly visual individuals used to communicating through video. With video being normalised across the workforce during periods of lockdown and working from home, videoconferencing has become the universal method of communication across different businesses. Upgrading the office’s workspaces and technology to meet Gen Zs’ expectations will, in turn, better equip the workplace to compete in a world of constantly advancing technological innovation.
The rise of the distributed workforce and the expectations of a new generation of workers confirms that the companies that succeed in the next decade will be the ones that value the limitless ways of working made possible by today’s technologies. Business and IT leaders will need to pay close attention to new work trends and requirements of their employees, and support their workforce to work in the environments they find most productive in the new future of work.