We live in a time of great upheaval. Whether it is advances in healthcare, transportation or technology, our day-to-day lives are close to unrecognisable from 30 years ago.
The one uniting factor of our era is that nothing can be taken for granted – society is in a state of constant flux, adapting to new challenges, thoughts and ideas.
Despite this, there is one place that seems slow to adopt this way of thinking: the office.
Aside from the use of computers, many workplaces still operate in the way they did decades ago. People come in the morning, sit down at a desk and leave it in the evening. This cannot go on much longer.
Two-thirds of knowledge workers — those who “think” for a living — believe their roles won’t be the same in five years, according to Unify’s The Way We Work Study.
Even more shocking though is that 35% believe their position will cease to exist altogether in the same timeframe.
When those in the workplace are uncertain about the actual jobs they’ll do in the future, how on earth can businesses expect to stay the same and succeed?
Honestly? They cannot. Change is no bad thing though. It is an opportunity to create a company that can thrive in tumultuous times, is able to attract the very best talent, and be flexible enough to adapt to whatever challenges arrive.
The key to this is to analyse what workers desire in a modern office environment and then take the steps needed to deliver it.
The office is not what it once was. Not too long ago, there was a time the office and the company were synonymous or even symbiotic. For it to be successful, everyone had to be there day-in, day-out. All decisions were made from the boardroom and, simply put, it was not possible to do this in a different way.
Now, technology is changing everything. According to Unify’s study, 52% of knowledge workers already operate in virtual teams. In other words, over half of people are work with those who are not in the same room or building.
Business is becoming more flexible and the idea of decisions being made in a single location is seeming more and more outdated. Alongside this, the same study revealed that 42% of respondents believe virtual teams can be more effective than face-to-face ones. Again, nearly half of all people view this type of work as delivering better results than doing the same things in the same room.
The question is how to achieve this. It might sound trite, but virtual working only works when it works. Simply put: organisations need a reliable and powerful technological foundation to deal with this.
A company should look towards a platform that can deal with a range of communication methods, including video conferencing, voice and IM. People like communicating in the way that feels most natural to them, and this type of working should operate seamlessly and without too much thought.
Freedom is free
The way people view work is also rapidly changing. For most of human history, occupations have defined people. Just look at the prominent thread among people’s surnames in the UK, for example Smith for blacksmiths and Archer for archers.
These and many others arose from a profession. In the modern world, individuals are less tied to their jobs. These days, they are looking for work to be a part of their lives, not the entirety of it.
This is why a business has to be flexible with its employees. The study revealed that 53% of people would consider changing to freelancing over regular employment if it was offered. This is a huge segment of the working population who desire more control over their working hours.
Businesses that are able to create freelancing roles for current and potential employees can drive loyalty and give individuals more control over their lives, in turn positively benefiting your organisation.
Head in the cloud
The cloud might be one of the worst named things in the technology market. For years, there has been confusion about the term from the general public and, considering it is a relatively simple idea, this has led, in part, to a resistance from companies adopting it.
Not any longer. In Unify’s study, it was discovered that 57% of respondents use “on-demand tools” (cloud or internet based) for teamwork or collaboration.
The way people live their day-to-day lives is already heavily based in the cloud — from storing personal photos to the apps on their smartphone. This technology is spilling over into working lives, and it is one of the issues that companies will soon have to face.
The majority of employees are already using the technologies they want within the enterprise, as they feel they can’t work productively without it. This can circumvent compliance and security protocols.
That being said, if a business has still not adopted cloud-based collaboration tools, it should not just select the first technology that it comes across. Just like with virtual teams, if the technology does not work, people will be irritated and simply choose not to use it.
With the importance of this technology in reviewing documents, which is vital to any decentralised workforce, it must be something they are happy to use. This is why when choosing one, organisations should involve the staff.
Ideally, the platform should also contain the communication features mentioned in the first point, but the most important aspect is that staff are happy using. They are the ones who will be working with it, meaning their preferences should take centre stage.
The office isn’t dead yet
Reading the above, you might assume that the office is close to disappearing. The study found that 69% of people think the office as a physical workplace is less important than in the past. The technological world we live in has eliminated much of the focus on physical locations, making the world a smaller place.
But the office is far from dead. In fact, only 7% say they’d like to spend between 75% and 100% of their time away from it. This highlights something that is vital to understand about the whole shift: it is an evolution, not a revolution.
Although people’s habits are changing, they are not unrecognisable. At the end of the day, we are all still humans. We still desire physical locations and contact with people, even if our habits are altering.
This is why it is still vital in this day and age to have an office. Sure, it can be smaller than it was in the past and people do not have to be there constantly, but it needs to remain.
No matter where people work, they desire a centre and this is what the office should be: the heart of a company.
Ultimately, if a company is going to survive in an ever-shifting age, it needs to adapt. Technology has forever altered the nature of the office and, in all honesty, this change is unlikely to slow.
Alongside this, a new generation are entering the workforce who hold different expectations, views and desires. Ignoring this might work for a while, but is paramount to signing your own destruction in the long term.
Instead, it must be embraced. If organisations adopt the right technology, with a particular focus on communication and collaboration, they can offer individuals a working experience they desire, ensuring they can thrive for years to come.
Sourced from Trevor Connell, EVP, worldwide sales and service providers, Unify