Reimagining the work environment

Question: What is the history of the office – how much has it changed over the years?

Mobility has had a significant effect – the workplace of the future no longer consists of a single place, but many places. Coffee shops in any town at any time of day are filled with people having meetings, doing conference calls, and using the Wi-Fi to work wherever they are. More and more people are working from home, meaning there are more cars parked outside houses, and less people in the office. Working from home has changed the concept of the office being a place that you ‘go to work’ beyond all recognition. Most of that has come as a result of connectivity and communications tools.

But it’s becoming even more applicable as a result of collaboration tools. Video conferencing in particular is becoming an everyday occurrence, and as a result is having a dramatic effect on flexibility. If you’ve got a meeting via video conference in the diary you wouldn’t dream of getting in the car, or getting on a train in order to attend. A meeting via video is no longer a reason to go to the office, instead it has become a meeting that happens perfectly well with participants people working wherever they are.

Question: What technologies are required to achieve the most effective workplace for today’s workforce?

A robust unified communications and collaboration strategy. Lots of smaller businesses will try to use consumer tools such as Skype or Facetime, and while they are fine to a point they do not suit all needs. Particularly, a larger organisation cannot afford to waste time on employees faffing around to try and get things to work, the equipment just needs to work first time.

Companies also need to provide equipment of a high enough standard to ensure a good quality of experience. If employees can’t hear people, or are not able to see a document that’s being shared on screen, or are having a poor experience then the technology simply won’t be adopted. Instead, employees will continue to drive into the office, they will continue to claim travel expenses, and the ROI for the unified communications platform goes out the window.

At its heart, it’s also got to be reliable, easy to use, and of course secure, depending on the sector you’re in.

Question: In what kind of workplace will Generation Z be most productive?

The real trailblazers are the employers that think creatively about the people first, and then use technology as a means to back that up. When it comes to flexible working, backwards companies still exist that think “If I can’t see him, he’s not working”. The most successful employers judge employees by outcomes rather than attendance, and ensure they give them the tools that they’re happy to work with.

Allowing an element of choice of laptop or tablet allows employees to use the technology that they feel the most comfortable with, which makes them more likely to use that technology to its full extent through unified communications, collaboration and conferencing.

A forward looking company will also realise that if it wants people to use the technology, then they need tools to be able to use it well. That extends beyond the laptop itself – one of the most critical things for effective unified communications is good quality headsets that are comfortable to wear, that have noise cancelling capabilities, and that can be operated in a variety of environments.

Equipping your people with the “right” tools means light transportable equipment with good battery life. This helps develop an affinity for the technology, and helps turn employees from nay-sayers to technology evangelists – but it’s also the most difficult part of the strategy to justify.