What might the future of work mean in practice?
Whether being used to enable flexible / remote working, drive digital transformation, introduce data-driven work environments or encourage heightened productivity, technology will be at the heart of businesses for many years to come.
Take digital transformation for example. A recent IDC survey found that 95 per cent of businesses were either planning, or engaging in, the application of digital technologies to create enhanced experiences, improve financial performance, or create new business models altogether.
Looking at the bigger picture, outside of just technological enhancements, the future of work will also force organisations to seek new and innovative methods of reducing costs. Doing so, however, typically means employees will be faced with a certain level of change, meaning any business transition requires tact, empathy and phasing.
Productivity will also be a key factor in driving future changes to working environments, as it relates so closely to other areas, such as the need for collaboration, retention of staff and the adoption of change.
What won’t work as anticipated?
As working environments continue to adapt to maximise the benefits of new technologies and digital capabilities, nothing will work as anticipated without the correctengagement and support of employees and the way they work.
A recent IDC survey found people, knowledge and culture to be the most commonly cited barriers to businesses digital transformation and not the technology itself.
Leaders can risk disengaging their staff if they assume their employees will simply ‘get used to’ any changes and attempts to transition quickly. To combat this, leaders should consider an education programme to support the change.
What will be the most important things for IT leaders to keep in mind now, to get ready for tomorrow?
In order to prepare for tomorrow, IT leaders need to focus on recruiting and retaining the best talent, looking after both new and existing employees. This is only made possible by providing them with the right tools and technologies to perform, as well as the right environments in which to share knowledge, collaborate and engage customers.
For organisations that have been successful in their digital transformation efforts, employee engagement and organisational culture is not an after-thought, but part of a holistic approach. One of the fundamental elements of this is the creation and management of new, flexible ways of working. In fact, in a recent Targus survey, just one in four European workers stated that their organisation actively encourages remote working, including the devices required to do so.
It’s also essential for leaders to practice what they preach.If staff see managers maintaining their own offices during the roll-out of flexible / remote working, for example, it’s very easy to see a ‘them and us’ barrier forming. For organisations that have been successful in the implementation of mobile working, employee engagement and transparency is key.
By ensuring everyone is on board with this more open approach to work, employees will be more keen to follow the lead, and buy in to the future of the business. It is also critical that, as part of any transition, staff are consulted to find out if the business can accommodate their needs. For example, some people prefer their own space, and this can be achieved through the development of silent rooms, pods and individual working spaces. When recently asked, two in five workers across Europe said their organisation doesn’t provide a comfortable and user-friendly workspace.
One key driver behind changing working environments will be the continued development of augmented reality (AR), and how the technology will be used to create virtual workspaces and offices, for employees that chose to work remotely. Not only does this give all members of staff the same sense of community, which may be lost when colleagues are not physically in the same office, it will enable the same level of collaboration, an essential driver to employee productivity.
Organisations must be prepared to make concessions. If they’re preparing to take something away from employees, thinking about what they can give back should be a key priority. From providing best-in-breed devices to well-being allowances and cultural benefits, organisations must consider how they can improve people’s overall working lives as part of a wider commitment to changing workstyles.
What isn’t getting talked about enough in this space?
When talking about the future of work, a lot of conversations are focused on millennials and how organisations can best cater to this generation of employees. However, what this fails to recognise is a large amount of employees that don’t sit under the ‘millennial’ umbrella, and therefore aren’t catered for.
In just two years’ time, the workplace will be made up by as many as five generations working side-by-side: The Boomer, The Millennial, The Traditionalist, The Gen Xer and The Gen 2020er. The working combination of these five generations then poses a number of questions around how organisations motivate people much older or younger than each other, and what they can do to encourage employees of different generations to share their knowledge and skills.
To truly have the most productive business model possible, organisations need to step away from the millennial hype, and consider how their workplace can be the best, and most productive, for all members of staff. When it comes to the key factors driving changes to the working environment, productivity is a central theme, chosen by 60 per cent of businesses in a recent IDC survey. In addition, the changing nature of business, the need to facilitate collaboration and the retention of talent are also key, and all fundamental to successfully catering to each member of the workforce.
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