by Dianne Dunnell, IIDA, NCIDQ, LEED AP
The most influential factor shaping the future of the workplace is quite simply, technology. Technology is helping to redefine workplace culture through the choices of technology available, the adoption of certain technologies over others, and the use of technology changing how and where we work.
Today we live in an always-connected, instant-access environment. Employees are working faster and more efficiently than ever and relying on mobile devices in the workplace, at home, and on the go. The next generation of workers, including Millennials and Gen Z, will be tied to their mobile phones, not their desks. To keep up, employers need to provide a workplace technology experience that matches the typical consumer technology experience with Bluetooth-driven or voice-activated devices. Forward-thinking companies are pivoting quickly and harnessing current trends to take advantage of new ways of working in the digital workplace.
The mobile revolution has inspired a giant shift in the way people communicate and access information. Communication barriers diminish and employee efficiency and innovation increase when technologies such as virtual meeting tools are integrated into the workplace. Companies should be mindful to put the technological infrastructure in place for employees to securely retrieve documents from different cloud-based platforms and mobile devices.
As productivity and collaboration tools become the norm, the volume of information hitting employees will continue to increase, and making sense of it quickly and prioritizing it effectively will be a key competitive skill. Companies are leveraging IoT, AI, and VR platforms to free employees to be more creative and efficient. These newest technologies and tools — in a dizzying array of categories — allow companies to create a smarter office environment, more focused customer service solutions, and more collaborative decision making.
Technology no longer defines the workplace but enables it. Just as many retailers are phasing out customer service email channels in favor of chatbots, companies are leveraging new web-based platforms and workplace analytics to offer employees optimized office environments. These technologies capture workspace usage, identify employees’ peak performance and productivity, and discover ways to improve processes, tools, and the workplace through employee feedback. For example, room and desk sensors are being used to promote employee wellness initiatives, offer insight into space usage, identify organizational inefficiencies, understand how much employees are collaborating and with whom, and provide data to facility managers to aid in real estate decisions. An additional benefit of workplace analytics allows for architects and designers to streamline the planning and design process while increasing satisfaction of the new workplace among teams.
The workplace is no longer just a physical space employees occupy during regular business hours. The workplace is evolving to define a company’s brand and express its culture as well as to address a changing workforce, information overload, and need for speed. The key to success, however, lies in the effective implementation of a digital workplace strategy.