This week, Throwback to the Future brings us back in time to the workplace of the past; when our desks were filled with rolodexes; large, oversized computer monitors and hard drives; fixed telephones with (nearly) a million buttons, but no conference call capabilities. And forget about working from home – there’d be no way to access your files or email unless you went into the office. Today, all you need is a laptop, a wireless connection, your smartphone and golden, great work ethic.
Today’s wireless technology enables us to send emails, take conference calls, communicate via email, instant message, live meeting and store files on the cloud so that we literally have everything we need at our fingertips. The workplace of tomorrow will take technology in the workplace to new heights, enabling better collaboration, efficiency and even relationship building. Here are a few emerging trends to watch out for:
Growing demand to work anywhere, anytime
With the increased use of mobile technology, faster and more robust wireless networks and an upswing in flexible workplaces, the physical office is becoming obsolete. We can take our work with us anywhere and work remotely where it makes sense for our lifestyles – the cottage, the local coffee shop or our cozy home office. In fact, a recent TELUS and Ivey Business School study revealed that mobile and at-home workers are just as productive as their office-based colleagues – and they’re happier.
According to Forrester, 29 per cent of the global workforce is characterized as “anytime, anywhere information workers” – those who use several mobile devices and apps, work from various locations, and are active users of cloud-based technology. This number will rise as more and more workplaces continue to adopt a mobile workforce. In fact, a 2013 IDC study predicts that 73 per cent of Canada’s workforce will be mobile by 2016. After all, 79 per cent of college graduates say they want the chance to work from home at least a few days a week.
This surge in our mobile workforce means that the way colleagues collaborate and share ideas will evolve. Working together in teams is a standard operating procedure, and new technologies are being developed rapidly to help workers communicate, collaborate and share resources – both in the office and remotely.
Motion sensing technologies like Kinect combined with smart boards and mobile devices will help enhance collaboration in the office, helping to bring the team’s ideas to life in a visual way. Modern workspaces will allow virtual notes and ‘content as objects’ to be shared on screens and smart boards –then, the best ideas and content will be moved into digital collaborative cloud environments like SharePoint or Drop Box where people can interact with the ideas virtually and build them out even further.
A similar experience can be created online with real-time whiteboards like RealtimeBoard. Think of a regular office whiteboard enhanced for online collaboration. Each board is unlimited, so you can add hundreds of files and objects without losing productivity; it’s available on your browser, and everything is stored online; and best of all – your entire team can collaborate in real-time.
Building community in a digital workplace
In this new mobile, collaborative and flexible office environment, companies are placing more emphasis on community and using a range of new practices that favour productivity and creativity over presenteeism and working “the way we always have.” In this new world, companies will have the luxury of hiring the best person for the job no matter where they’re located as online hubs and social communities, like Yammer, will outweigh outdated definitions of departments, headquarters and org charts.
In the years ahead, the future workplace will become a digital environment that will intelligently enable more innovation, collaboration, social interaction and learning that will ultimately increase competitiveness, productivity and engagement company-wide.