Once upon a time, offices were bustling, packed campuses - and it was business as usual with everyone scurrying around to get work done. Busy. Focused. Hive-like.
It’s tough to imagine that’s how things used to be, little more than a year ago — it seems like another era. The world has changed so much since.
Over the last 12 months, we’ve transitioned from traditional campus-centric activities to remote experiences. Especially in the enterprise, employees now work miles apart from one another in varied, personal environments, even when collaborating.
The rapid shift to distanced work operations was a struggle, for most, but companies that had already embraced flexible work and digital capabilities had a significant head start.
In a recent McKinsey survey, 85% of respondents said their business has either “somewhat” or “greatly” accelerated the implementation of technologies to digitally enable employee interactions and collaboration. Some examples include video conferencing and file-sharing platforms.
The digital shift happened on a large scale, and years before many had anticipated. As we look at transitioning back to the office, in-person experiences will become the priority in the workplace once again, but they’ll be completely different. In fact, the adoption of traditional in-person experiences will be bearish initially, forcing organizations to support hybrid experiences.
That doesn’t mean it will go smoothly for everyone.
While 77% of CIOs claim digital transformation as their biggest budget priority of 2021, Gartner's 2020 Digital Workplace Survey of Research Circle members shows there's a limited understanding of digital transformation.
The Future of Work: Emerging Trends
COVID-19 changed the entire look, feel, and modus operandi of the average workplace.
The key to re-building a smart campus is to provide an innovative employee experience (EX) program. Before reopening the office, these programs need to be in place and working order to create positive, rewarding systems for workers to feel safe and encouraged to come back into the office.
So, what does the future of work look like? How will operations evolve in 2021 and beyond? What has changed? What are the experiences, technologies, and protocols that employees should expect going forward?
A majority of on-site interactions will be increasingly automated with the help of mobile apps, beacons, sensors, and smart technologies. The goal is to create a frictionless work environment, with improved contactless capabilities. Employees will be able to order food, schedule workout and gym times, gain entry to important facilities, and more, all through their personal and mobile devices. Mobile apps will become a controller for all on-site experiences and engagements.
Prioritized Health and Safety
Likely a permanent fixture in the workplace, there will be a continued focus on safety protocols, healthy work environments, routine sanitation, and low-contact technologies. Together, these solutions will make the workplace safer, with a strong foundation of real-time communications and cross-site analytics that keep employees, operations, facilities and other core function personas informed.
Combined Workplace Ecosystems
Smart platforms and technologies will be integrated with multiple providers to deliver a more comprehensive employee or tenant engagement solution. Services like food, lighting, remote access, temperature controls, digital signage, smart kiosks, workstations, and desks, will all be incorporated. With everything in one place, it reduces app overload and eliminates siloed systems.
Workers venturing on-site will be engaged in more purposeful projects and work. All desks, workstations, and spaces will be dedicated to activities and purpose. Going to the office no longer will represent punching a clock to many - but rather it will signify something more important where they *need to be there and are reliant upon interactions, collaboration, and what the office offers them. This blends into giving workers greater control over their workstations, including ambiance controls for desks and spaces, with nuanced lighting, temperature options, and more.
Commercial IoT Adoption
No data-oriented or “smart” solution can exist without the aid of IoT gear. Commercial IoT adoption will ramp up considerably as these new processes and platforms come online. Everything from smart sensors and switches to enhanced security solutions will be implemented. Data is the lifeblood of any smart enterprise and the Internet of Things can provide it in all its glory.
Real Estate Optimization
Mobile apps and workplace services will allow for the reservation of meeting rooms, desks, and other bookable areas around the office. Smarter analytics and real-time metrics will help optimize properties by detailing how rooms are being used and what capacities locations are operating at. Access to this type of information is a powerful contributor for reducing the office footprint and ensuring that available spaces are being used to their full potential. If not... time to reconfigure.
Silos are detrimental to productivity and collaboration. But, they still exist, and are an inherent legacy for most large organizations. Modern workplace systems will require cross-collaboration between different interest workplace groups, especially IT, workplace experience, facilities, real estate, HR. As such, organizations are setting up task forces to tackle complex reentry requirements, creating the playbook for a safer return to to work, and maintaining expectations. Through these connections, a holistic work experience is created.
Centralized Scheduling and Booking
Because workers are more spread out and spaces are being carefully monitored, there is an increasing demand for employees to 'book' a desk before even coming on-site for the day. Desk reservations, tied to a centralized scheduling tool, allows operations teams to manage how many people can be on-site at any given time. This is subject to local rules and regulations regarding indoors capacities and needs to be able to expand and contract with changing guidelines. Similarly reservations for other spaces and even activities across the workplace will become increasingly popular as well. Imagine using mobile to book a treadmill, yoga workout sessions, dry cleaning appointments, cafeteria seating, recreation — like a volleyball court — parking spaces, and so much more.
New Opportunities & Roles
In an age where many jobs seem to be going away, new use cases for the future of work will instead introduce new opportunities. Fresh and re-emerging roles will be created to support various experiences, platforms, and technical capabilities to execute everything above (and more) in concert. To name a few, workplace experience managers, digital content producers, desk managers, booking support crews, and so on. There will also be new up-skilling opportunities for current employees, allowing valuable people to cast a wider net with their ever-growing talents.
Employee-First In the New World of Work
As you might have noticed, these trends point towards an employee-first approach. It’s the right direction. The smart enterprise is one that truly embraces holistic and positive employee experience solutions. We owe it to our people to keep them safe, welcome, engaged, and satisfied, whether they’re at work or home.
Many of these technologies and solutions mean that a trip to the office will have more intent and purpose, and that’s true no matter how much time employees spend on-site. Work can happen anywhere, anytime, and in any capacity.
Most importantly, if the past year has taught us anything, it’s that we all need to be prepared for change at a moment’s notice. Therefore, the continual evaluation and refining of employee engagement and workplace opportunities is a must.
Our employees matter to us and they are the backbone of our success, so let’s deliver.