Building the Workplace of the Future


The future of the workplace is about the future of people. As we change – as we become increasingly dependent on mobile devices and as we work faster and become less tolerant of inefficient processes and technologies – we expect changes in the workplace.

Instead of trying to control or limit these changes, enterprises should harness them. The workplace of the future will be one that can anticipate trends and pivot quickly to take advantage of new ways of working. Futurists have predicted everything from responsive work environments with portable desks, to idea incubators with circular couches and soft lighting, to 3D holographic imaging projectors for “in-person” brainstorming. One thing these visions of the future have in common is that they are decidedly employee-centric.

Whatever the design of the physical workplace, there are fundamental concepts about the changing nature of work – and of workers – that every enterprise needs to get right. If they don’t, not only will companies miss out on productivity benefits and innovative thinking, they will be less appealing workplaces, affecting their ability to attract and retain employees.

Here are the Top 5 priorities for companies as they build the workplace of the future:

  1. Deliver the weekend experience during the week. Every day, technologies with greater functionality and superior performance hit the consumer market. Unfortunately, most companies are not providing a workplace technology experience that matches the typical consumer technology experience. The greater the discrepancy between worker expectations and reality, the greater the impact on user satisfaction – and poor user satisfaction can have a substantial, negative impact on employee productivity, morale and retention. Don’t let the latest and greatest in new productivity tools distract you from the fundamentals. First and foremost, ensure the most frequently used devices such as desktops, laptops and smartphones are reliable and fit for purpose so employees can easily carry out their day-to-day tasks. And then give workers a friction free-technology experience. Provide a stable enterprise network that minimizes device and software performance issues.
  2. Support workforce mobility with a consistent, connected experience. Today’s workforce expects to be able to work from any device, from anywhere, at any time. This is partly driven by the promise of “always on” services in the consumer space. Laptops are overtaking desktops, BYOD programs are increasingly prevalent and use of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets continue to increase. Make applications and tools truly device-agnostic – equally reliable and user-friendly whether accessed via a desktop or a smartphone. And make sure remote connections are fast and reliable, with intuitive access procedures.
  3. Build a network for seamless collaboration. When enterprises want to enhance collaboration among employees, it’s not enough to simply purchase the latest technology and let employees loose. After all, different teams across different business units using different tools for different purposes doesn’t result in collaboration. When users don’t know when or how to use a new technology, most end up using only the basic features. Real collaboration requires enterprises to train their employees and provide ongoing support. Avoid sending training and support materials via email as it’s likely to get filed into the “look at later” pile. Make sure tools are compatible and interoperable across business units. Put in place a consistent way to govern so tools are used correctly and employees maximize their potential.  
  4. Empower your users. Five years ago, 90 percent of support requests were made via telephone. Since then, that number has been cut in half. Many organizations also are phasing out email support due to its perception as a “black hole.” Organizations that are employing new digital channels – such as automated self-service, chatbots, support kiosks and social media – are lowering cost and improving user satisfaction. These channels, especially those with user-friendly interfaces that are easy to navigate and feature an effective search function, empower users to resolve their own issues. Automated password reset functions, for example, allow for immediate resolution and reduce traffic to more costly support channels. This is a winning outcome for both the user and the support framework.
  5. Evolve the onboarding experience. Often new employees have to wait weeks to get access to all the technologies and systems they need to do their job. Streamlining the onboarding process not only ensures new users can begin contributing from day one, but also creates positive early impressions of the organization. Use the onboarding process as a chance to provide guidance about when and how to use relevant support channels, collaboration tools and other technology services. Consider introducing persona-based bundles so that all required technologies, accesses and user IDs can be requested at the same time. This will greatly minimize the burden on the user and reduce the risk of error.

In the end, technology should not define the workplace but enable it. Figuring out how and where to invest so people can do their best work, collaborate, solve problems, communicate and achieve goals is an essential objective for any enterprise hoping to compete in the 21st century.