Due to the digital revolution we now have an entire generation who can’t imagine what life was like before Facebook. Their arrival in the workplace breaks new ground and creates new issues and concerns for business leaders.
A digital native is usually defined as a person who was born after the introduction of digital technology i.e. one that has grown up with modern technology such as broadband, tablets, social media and such. These are the people for whom technology is embedded in their lives: they communicate and socialise using email, social media and messaging services; they consume media online and shop with their mobile. For these people, the concept of a static office that they are constrained to is almost archaic, as these technologies offer them the freedom and flexibility to work in other, perhaps more productive enviPronments
Today’s digital natives have grown up in an era where they trust smart devices more than pen and paper. There are 363 million digital natives globally, with more than 84% of this group owning a smartphone, compared with 63% of the total population.
So undoubtedly, this can often lead to conflict between those who have been born into the technology generation, and those who have seen it slowly embed itself in their personal and working life. For those people for whom technology is not an essential part of life, especially those in senior positions, dealing with digital natives can often have its problems. These are the staff in the work place who will want to use their personal tablet for work use, who will want to work from home, and who will see it as a constraint when they are forced to work in an environment that doesn’t suit their working style or needs.
The modern office environment can be adapted to meet the needs of all employees, whether they are digital savvy or not. For business owners, the issue for them is to ensure that they understand how their employees are working, and are given the data that allows them to analyse this and plan the office environment accordingly. If you can monitor the behaviour of your staff then you are on the first step on your way to being able to provide a more flexible, productive environment for them to work in, whether that be in the office or at another location.
Smart buildings, built to accommodate digital natives, can unlock the potential of employees through mobile and digital working. Traditional working methods of being tied to your desk have become ineffective. Laptops, mobile phones and shared platforms have eradicated the need to work in a static environment. As the way we work changes, our surroundings must also adopt digital advances to encourage productivity. By giving employees (who have become accustomed to living online) the option to work digitally you can ultimately increase business profitability.
Mobile working is nothing new, however many companies have failed to adopt space utilisation technologies, perhaps living in fear of change. But if technology is constantly advancing then so should the technology we work with.
The way to ensure that your office is ready for the new generation is to transform your workspace into a smart office space, equipped with the tools to assist your employees. For instance being able to remotely book desk space, meeting rooms and cater to specific needs liberates employees and saves time. We have become accustomed to fast-paced lifestyles, where everything is available at our fingertips. Our workspace should enable this and not hinder it. By enabling the latest technologies you can empower your digital employees. Innovative touch screens, integrating working platforms and smart devices will create a seamless experience and create a stress free atmosphere.
For many businesses, there is also an issue with how to address unused space in the office. If you have staff who are digitally savvy, often working from other locations due to advanced technology, then there will be times when many desks or areas in the office are unused. As technology becomes an increasingly integral part of the working environment, this is an issue for businesses that is becoming even more prevalent.
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For some of the large, multi-national companies we work for, across banking, finance and telecoms, this was a growing problem for them. For some clients with global headquarters in the UK, it was clear that the issue of unused workspaces, with staff often abroad with work, was costing them a fortune. For these companies, some of the most innovative and forward-thinking in the world, having staff working from different locations and with different types of technology isn’t the issue; it was how they manage this effectively so they weren’t spending unnecessary amounts of money accommodating them.
So for these businesses, the answer lay in taking a step back, and analysing how these digital natives operated in the business. Where are they working? And how are they working? Which areas of the business are prone to people working in other environments? And what is the general consensus within the company about the current office landscape?
Once these questions are answered, businesses can understand the bigger picture and begin to plan the office around the workers, and not vice versa. For forward-thinking companies, especially in the era of the digital native, staff satisfaction should come first if you want to achieve results and deliver an impressive bottom line. Understanding how your staff prefer to work is just one way of doing this.
Office potential does remain untapped, but in order to rectify this, companies need to realise that the way their employees’ work has changed. Today’s digital native works in a mobile world, where they’re in control of where and when they work. If you adapt your workspace to suit their needs, you business will reap the rewards.
This article was contributed by Paul Statham, CEO of Condeco Software