The outbreak of Covid-19 has undeniably changed the standard methods of working for many employers and employees across the globe. Before the pandemic, the ONS found less than 30 per cent of the UK workforce - around 8.7 million people - said they have worked from home.
What’s more, less than a year ago, in a pre-Covid world, Insight published a study, Are UK Businesses Creating the Modern Workplace, or Falling at the First Hurdle?, which found that 80 per cent of office workers in the UK felt that they do not have the technology to do their jobs properly. Additionally, on average, workers lost 2.4 hours a week trying to use inadequate technology, which amounts to 1.8 billion working hours a year.
Fast forward to today, and the entirety of the workforce that can work remotely, is doing so. Companies have, perhaps for the first time, been exposed to a new world of processes and technology adoption to keep their business functioning as normal. This is because working remotely can mean that poor technology isn’t just an inconvenience. It can be a deal-breaker to maintaining operations.
Business is certainly proving its resilience, but will this have a lasting impact on the workplace of the future? It is plausible that the rise of software adoption driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, is both here to stay and could also increase the adoption of improved hardware technology in the office; both of which will come together to promote a more tech-forward workplace.
The rise of software adoption during isolation
One outcome of the current lockdown, is that businesses have had to rethink how they communicate. Whereas there was once great emphasis on being physically present for meetings, now companies have no choice but to host sessions virtually. Platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams have seen a surge in usage as a result of this: the former saw its daily active users soar from 10 million before the pandemic, to 200 million. But the companies using them are benefitting too.
A big advantage is that virtual meetings remove the need for travel time and expenses, as well as allowing employees, who may struggle to get into the office each day because of childcare or other lifestyle factors, to join the meeting from home. This is now becoming normalised and the trend is likely here to stay.
The same is true for training. In-person training sessions might be preferable, but the adoption of appropriate software now, means that those who are unable to physically attend in future will not have to miss out. It also reduces the time and resources spent conducting multiple meetings. For example, the use of recorded PowerPoint slides, video calls and split screens means a trainer can host one session for employees situated across the country, or even across the world. Sessions hosted on platforms like Zoom can also be recorded, meaning those unable to attend can listen at a more convenient time.
Additionally, the rise of cloud services adoption will help to improve the efficiency of collaborative and remote working. According to AWS, in response to COVID-19, one of its global investment management customers deployed a remote-working solution for thousands of users in less than one week. While mass remote working has applied some pressure on cloud service providers, this will ultimately help to strengthen their supply chains as they meet heightened demand; paving the way for a new standard of cloud usage.
The impact for hardware adoption post-pandemic
The impact of widespread tech adoption in the workplace means businesses may be more inclined to upgrade other technologies. If software and cloud services are considered the new normal, companies will want to ensure that meetings, training sessions and collaborative working are as efficient and effective as possible. And hardware plays an important role in this.
For example, interactive displays grounded in the office can help to enhance working practices by connecting with software. Utilising the best of both, an individual in the office can host a meeting while participants dial-in remotely, and all parties can collaborate on screen. What’s more, once the session has ended, notes can be sent straight from the screen and emailed to all participants. The rise in platform usage may also increase integration with web cameras and near-field and far-field microphones, enabling seamless connection for video calls without a standalone PC, laptop or similar device.
Other measures taken could include upgrading wireless printing facilities, or equipping employees with better personal equipment such as laptops and mobiles to support increased remote working. This would also help to improve functionality for businesses looking to AR and video software to replicate traditionally “in-person” work tasks, such as taking building measurements for fitting tailored screens and displays.
The future of employment is tech-first
Isolation is very likely to cement current working conditions as our “new normal”. The combination of mass software and hardware technology adoption will help to change the ways of working indefinitely, particularly as companies realise the true benefits of tech-enabled employment. And these extend far beyond the workplace.
For example, usage of platforms such as Skype, Facetime and WhatsApp has also soared, which, although not a replacement for in-person relationships, can help individuals stay connected inside and outside of the workplace. Additionally, remote working is having a positive impact on the environment in terms of reducing travel-produced pollution. And we can only hope that this trend continues once the pandemic subsides.
The office of the future will contain whichever new methods make sense for each individual business. But one thing we can say with a degree of certainty: technology will undeniably play an important role in this.
Tim Matthews, senior B2B product manager, Vestel