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Say hello to the future of work

If you’re a regular cinemagoer, you’ll notice that almost every time a Hollywood director depicts a thirty-something protagonist in a stereotypically dull office job, the office will probably look grey, be deathly quiet and split into cubicles preventing all human interaction.

This depiction of a working environment might have rung true in the 1950s or even late 90s, but assigned offices, desktop PCs and fax machines are largely a thing of the past. The latest generation of talent – the millennial workforce (or ‘digital natives’) – are driving a shift in the way we’re conducting business in the 21st century.

Gone are the days of employees being chained to desks – Forrester Research characterised 29 per cent of the global workforce today as ‘anytime, anywhere Information Workers’ who use three or more devices from multiple locations to undertake their job.

Digital natives expect to be able to flit between different ways of working and businesses need to adapt in line with this. Here are a few ways that workspaces are evolving to inspire more productivity and collaboration.

Welcome to a no door policy

In the past, office workers have been hidden away in a variety of offices of different shapes and sizes. The bigger the office, the higher up you are in the organisation, and everyone wants that corner office like a piece of prime real estate. The problem with this type of working environment is the thinking it encourages – the same workspace, desk or office drums up the same old ideas.

Yet 37 per cent of the ‘Information Workers’ surveyed by Forrester said they preferred to work from different locations or flex work. Herein lies the disconnect between what offices are offering in terms of working environments and what workers actually want.

Enter the modern open plan layout of working environments, which doesn’t cause so much competition or politics among staff. The beauty of an open plan work environment is that, away from the desks which will more or less remain in offices for the time being, there are many other areas that can be explored and utilised.

There is a real focus in customer-facing environments such as retail branch banks, retailer stores and travel agents in taking workers out from behind their desks and onto the floor, which is designed to completely change the customer experience into a more collaborative, informal, conversational, personalised interaction.

Employees are being encouraged to break away from their ‘designated’ areas and typical customer interaction model to ensure the best environment for working and achieving greater productivity.

In today’s ‘sharing economy’, giving employees the flexibility to share workspaces and common areas also makes for more efficient use of valuable and expensive real estate. If you apply the same proposition to a retail environment, the customer experience also improves infinitely, especially when technology to support this is utilised in the optimal way.

What are the odds?

By ditching assigned seating in favour of anywhere, anytime work, we’re interacting with co-workers that we normally wouldn’t – or serving customers better than ever before. The guy in marketing starts hot-desking with the digital team on the third floor, and the corporate sales team sits with marketing on the second.

This cross-pollination of different workers breeds collaboration and helps to solve a range of daily problems, such as a salesperson giving immediate customer feedback to a product manager. Or, workers can engage with their customers directly in a more human and natural way.

In the next-generation workspace, this transformation creates a deeper understanding of the business and improved collaboration is achieved.

Mobile squared

Laptops are no longer the height of mobility. Employees instead want tablets and smartphones to access work emails on the go – the less bulky the device, the better.

But we are no longer content with just one device. True mobility means being able to move your work documents across devices seamlessly, regardless of where you are or what you’re doing. A single login also facilitates this new workflow, letting you access everything you need on any device. And it’s only a matter of time until wearables like Google Glass come into the picture as well.

But the experience needs to be smooth and enjoyable for the employee in order for those apps, devices or wearables to be used.

BYOD – the norm, not the exception

According to Forrester, at least a quarter of a billion global information workers already have some form of a Bring-Your-Own-Device policy in use. As businesses increasingly see the benefits of flexible working for both the company and employees, this number will only rise.

Details like cost sharing, IT support and maintenance may vary from business to business, but the concept remains the same – turn up to work with the device you want to use and use it. Some businesses will still want to provide its own endpoint hardware for call centres and specialised groups, but these businesses will become the exception instead of the norm in a BYOD world.

The future is bright…and automated

From voice recognition to geosensing, new technologies hold the promise of erasing cumbersome tasks and interfaces – arranging meeting rooms through Outlook or entering data into systems manually – by allowing people to interact more naturally with their environments.

Imagine walking into a meeting room and simply speaking the names of the colleagues you want to meet with and when and ‘voila’ – the meeting is booked! Everyone would get so much more done by harnessing automated technologies, allowing us to focus on the core of our day-to-day roles.

It’s clear that the world of work is changing across all sectors and size of business. And while it might seem a bit confusing at first with buzzwords like ‘BYOD’ being thrown around the office, the future of working is just around the corner and very different to the workplace of days gone by – mobile, productive, collaborative and profitable.

Jason Tooley is UK country manager at Citrix

Jason Tooley
Jason Tooley is Vice President Northern Europe at Veritas Technologies.