Consumerisation has undoubtedly changed the way employees and employers think about their use of business technology. Today, the design of the most successful work environments is increasingly being dictated by the technology workers choose to take into the office, signifying a major shift in power.
This consumerisation trend could mean that IT departments now have to react to user demands rather than dictate the IT strategy, however the majority of businesses see this as a positive evolution.
The result of using the right technology, with access both inside and outside of the workplace, enables staff to work smarter and be far more efficient, productive and collaborative.
Aside from the impact of consumerisation, there are other fundamental factors that have triggered new ways of working, with cost pressures and the need for better collaboration high on the list.
In terms of cost, the office is typically the second largest financial burden for organisations after salaries, and this has prompted a number of businesses to start experimenting with different ways of working.
The most forward-thinking companies have started to design their offices with the recognition that work sits at the collision point of people, space and technology – creating environments that actually support the real work being done.
Work and the workplace now extends well beyond the confines of the office, and technology allows many knowledge workers to be mobile part, or sometimes all, of the time.
The purpose of the office is gradually changing in response, becoming more about collaboration, meetings and exchanging ideas and experiences – leaving employees to work elsewhere when they need to concentrate and work by themselves.
This approach requires several elements to be put in place, from management culture and new work styles that allow mobility, to enabling technologies that allow independent working.
The design of the next-generation workplace is based on the principle of activity-based working (ABW) – reflecting the variety of activities employees do and then creating spaces and environments for each of these tasks in proportion to their frequency.
One of the key tasks that ABW caters for is collaboration, whether it’s a high-tech space with state-of-the-art technology, noisy café style settings, or a low-tech, sparse environment with phone-free zones.
Perhaps this is a result of modern businesses now understanding the importance of collaboration, and as consumerisation has led to more technologies that better replicate and enhance the experience of collaborating in person, it can become more engrained in the company ethos.
There are two types of collaboration in the corporate world: intra company and inter company. Intra-company collaboration, the most common area, is where employees from the same company work together on projects and processes, both in co-located facilities and increasingly across a broad range of geographical offices.
Inter-company collaboration involves people from different companies working together, however this is more of challenge as connecting people through different technology and security systems across public networks makes it difficult.
In response, a range of new technological solutions are emerging on the market that will accelerate the ability to collaborate successfully – from the latest high-definition video conferencing to unified communications and collaboration software.
One of the key elements in the collaborative space is the rise in employees using augmented technology, by annotating documents and other software together at the same time, so that collaboration feels like an extension of traditional pen and paper techniques.
The use of touch – or ‘haptics’ – will have a profound impact on people’s ability to use new collaboration tools as interaction and manipulation of data becomes more intuitive and natural.
Another inevitable factor that has impacted the changing workplace and the move towards more collaboration is demographics. We now work in an era where there are four identifiable generations in the workforce – each with a different view on what is important in the work environment and their preferred style of working.
In addition, the next generation still at school or college have been brought up in a digital world with synchronous experiences learned through social networking, instant messaging and real time presence.
Technology comes naturally to them in every area of their lives, from the interactive whiteboards in their classrooms to their prolific use of mobile devices. In the next decade, this generation will have entered the workforce, and a natural migration to collaboration and collaborative work will take place.
>See also: Technology and the workplace of the future
These multiple elements help to paint a picture of the workplace of the future. Advanced technologies such as the rise of ‘smart surfaces’ from interactive screens and displays to digital wallpaper and immersive space will be used alongside complementary technology such as high definition video conferencing, mobile technology and cloud-based services.
Employees will collaborate from regional offices, hotel rooms or homes – and collaborate in highly capital-intensive, technology-rich rooms in the workplace.
The working environment will barely be recognisable to today’s traditional nine to fivers, an inevitable result of the rise in consumerisation, reduced costs and the recognition that collaboration will help companies to survive and thrive.
Sourced from Martin Large, CEO, Steljes