As much as we might want to move beyond the topic of the pandemic and its implications on business, we have to acknowledge the massive disruption it brought to modern workplaces. Almost all the workplace trends we predicted at the start of 2021 have become a reality. As the same time, new challenges and opportunities are arising for the workplace, as the future of work is no longer governed only by the IT silos of an organization.
As enterprises struggle with the great resignation, global workplace leaders must ensure their workplace technology priorities are aimed at enhancing the employee experience across the entire employee lifecycle.
Future of Work: The Physical, the Digital and the Human
ISG believes that the future of work is centered around three key areas: physical, digital and human. Each area has a number of trends affecting it. For example, as a trend still evolving from last year, remote work technology enablement and management will separate more distinctly from broader employee engagement and experience in 2022. Remote work will involve enabling anytime-anywhere-any device/network (AAA) workplace technologies. It will also include cybersecurity, device management, virtual desktops, service desk support and other digital workplace elements. The broader employee experience and engagement will include human workplace elements such as employee empathy, cultural aspects and change management.
The following are the top 10 predictions for workplace in 2022 with a focus on the physical, digital and human:
- Telemetry-based digital experience will gain more traction. In the past two years, enterprises began leveraging solutions that provide telemetry-based analysis of workplace technology. These solutions monitor application and device performance to predict and prevent failures. This analysis will play a major role in quantifying digital employee experience as enterprises begin to associate business outcomes with workplace technology usage.
- Experience level agreements (XLAs) beyond app/device performance will also see an uptake. Employee engagement and experience will receive renewed attention, separate from tech-focused enablement and telemetry analysis. This experience measurement will include parameters for measuring changing employee behavior that results in increased productivity, digital adoption and measurable business benefits. For example, reducing email usage, change management and XLAs on business outcomes. This analysis may also be used to correlate employees’ digital experience and employees’ digital dexterity with their business unit’s performance and expected business results.
- Unified communication and collaboration (UCC) solutions will focus on app integration and combating digital fatigue. As we predicted in 2021, UCC solutions have evolved to handle greater enterprise app integration and enhance employee experience and productivity by reducing number of clicks and windows switching. Support for more productivity apps in UCC solutions such as Zoom will allow for better meeting and collaboration experience. UCC and UCC-as-a-Service (UCCaaS) solutions will increasingly focus on reducing digital fatigue and help organize an employee workday with possible integration with solutions such as Microsoft VIVA.
- Tech democratization will require smart workplace management. True to our prediction last year, low-code/no-code solutions are becoming popular. However, they are not being used extensively for critical business processes and functions. Enterprises are considering them as tools to help tech-savvy line-of-business (LoB) workers design and automate their processes. Enterprise IT will need to enable such an environment by ensuring proper governance and standardization, thus supporting self-help documentation for new citizen developers. This would require workplace support personnel with higher skills than those needed to manage regular EUC technologies. Even modern EUC technologies are offering low-code/ no-code functionalities to automate routine tasks, such as patch management and file operations. Clients will need workplace technologists who can think more strategically about device/app provisioning and security policies with changing technology democratization needs.
- Device management will focus more on edge and security: Unified endpoint management (UEM) solutions will continue to focus on the increasing number of wearables and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices entering the workplace. The introduction of 5G and Wi-Fi 6 will positively impact remote work with an increased focus on edge computing and secured access service edge (SASE) managing with a single pane of glass. Also, as more enterprise apps are being “SaaSified,” they require secure provisioning and deployment – across devices – for a seamless experience and a contextual zero-trust approach.
- Every year will be the year of VDI. Microsoft Cloud PC has once again revolutionized the cloud-based virtual desktop with Device-as-a-Service (DaaS) after the introduction of Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) in 2019. After 2019, every year sounds like the “Year of VDI,” and Cloud PC will also enable Windows OS on a non-Windows device, something that SMBs will appreciate, with little management overhead. Clients are adopting AVD in some form or other with the dependency on Windows operating system and legacy Windows apps. For a large organization, scaling existing on-prem VDI or cloud DaaS will be a priority for multiple geographies, personas and endpoints. With the chip shortage plaguing enterprises globally, desktop and application virtualization will continue to be a key investment area over the next few years.
- Return to office will not be the same. Major changes in physical workplaces will be seen with an increasing number of no-touch solutions, such as digital way finders, hot desking and even no-touch coffee machines. Return to work will be influenced by social distancing norms, regulations and health monitoring policies – and enabling technologies will need to ensure that this experience is not very different from virtual or remote working. When clients think of employee-specific policies and activities, they will need to rely less on face-to-face interactions. Returning to the office will be only for the select cases in which work cannot be undertaken from home.
- The gig workforce will drive technology demands. Growth of the gig economy and the contingent workforce will lead to situations in which some workers will work for more than one company at a time. While the technologies that enable such scenarios are available, the scope of their use will increase. In this new era of contingent workforce, in which companies pay employees not for their skills but for their time, the enablement of uninterrupted workplace technologies will be more important than employee engagement.
- New technologies influencing the consumer world will enter the workplace. With the birth of Metaverse, we can expect an impact on all forms of social life. Since the technologies influencing the consumer world eventually find their way into the workplace, the coming years will witness more virtualization of users than ever before. We’ll see an increasing focus on virtual reality, avatars and virtual spaces with new firms such as Gather, Teamflow and Virbela emerging to provide a virtual office experience to counter the monochrome world of video conferencing and collaboration solutions. Concurrently, smaller firms will provide avatar-based learning centers and are already offering these to support virtual events. Though their impact on large organizations is expected to be minimal, the SMB segment may be keen to adopt such solutions.
- Managed services will be more business-focused: True to our last year's predictions, workplace services contracts are now permeating businesses and LoBs. In fact, many managed service providers are now moving away from transactional-SLA-focused-workplace-service projects that do not involve any transformative elements. Clients too are articulating their workplace transformation needs from a business perspective instead of simply a matter of reducing the number of tickets, enabling the VDI environment or implementing a mobile device management technology. Each requirement now has a business imperative, and workplace leaders are increasingly talking about the pain points end users face in their day-to-day operational work. We expect this to continue with the emergence of a distinct set of service providers that offer real business benefits instead of focusing only on enabling workplace technologies.
In many ways, 2022 will set a new threshold for future of work trends. We will see some clear directions for 2023 and the years beyond. We all agree that we will never go back to the old ways of working prior to 2020. However, client IT organizations need to quickly equip themselves to foster and manage a new workplace environment that is more focused on business output and not just on keeping the lights on.
About the author
Mrinal Rai is the principal analyst for Digital Workplace and Conversational AI. His area of expertise is digital workplace services, enterprise social collaboration and conversational AI both from a technology and business point of view. He covers key areas around the Workplace, End User computing domain and conversational AI viz., modernizing workplace, Enterprise mobility, BYOD, VDI, managed workplace services, service desk, enterprise social software, content/ team collaboration, chatbots and intelligent virtual agent platforms. He has been with ISG for last 8+ years and has more than 13 years of industry experience. Mrinal works with ISG advisors and clients in engagements related to chatbots, virtual assistants, workplace modernization, social intranet, collaborative workplace, cloud-based VDI, end user computing and service desk.