New tech to transform operations

The way in which workplaces function is poised to fundamentally change in the coming years, as new technologies are increasingly integrated into daily operations, and digitally driven outcomes spur an overhaul of work practices. With this in mind, it is important for businesses to keep up to speed with technology developments, and to adopt a flexible and forward-looking approach.

As technologies continue to evolve, and as the digital ecosystem broadens, savvy businesses will explore the potential to integrate new technologies, and embrace complementary work practices that deliver efficiency and productivity gains. This in turn will result in a remodelling of traditional structures, accommodating both the physical and digital workplaces.

As detailed via a Gartner blog post, changes that can be expected by 2028 include:

  • “We Working” – moving away from traditional team structures, and catering to business objectives of complexity and scale, organisations will gravitate towards a new work philosophy called We Working. Amid fluctuating workloads, business will create autonomous and high-performing teams to work on specific assignments, reducing the need for human managers to oversee teams, with worker profile tools focused less on job titles and more on skills and competencies.
  • Upskilling and digital dexterity – with most high-value work to be cognitive in nature, constant digital upskilling will be needed to solve complex problems, and employees will need to focus on digital dexterity. As part of creating a continuous learning environment, knowledge acquisition and transparency will be required across day-to-day operations, with non-traditional programs, such as boot camps, consumerised learning, competitions and hackathons, to potentially form part of learning processes.
  • Blurred boundaries – digital business, underpinned by vast networks and ecosystems, will see work distribution increased across communities and across businesses globally, with employees to use avatars, language software, conversational interfaces and real-time dialect translation to fluently interact with team members across the world. Hybrid workplaces (physical and digital) will need to be built, embracing the work styles of all types of employees.
  • Smart machine co-workers – companies will start to increase the functions of smart machines, software, apps and avatars, while employees will develop personal toolkits of virtual doppelgangers with the help of AI software and devices, which are more accessible to their personal or team-based activities. In addition to this, they will have the ability to carry their personal workplaces with them using cloud communities, open applications and personal virtual assistants.

Workplaces have, of course, undergone significant changes this year, as we continue to develop mechanisms to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, and the impacts on individuals, society and the workforce can be expected to be ongoing. These impacts are likely to lessen over time, however it’s not necessary to look too far back in history for examples of how society can suddenly and permanently change direction, adapting to new realities – 9/11, for instance, saw the introduction of tighter security and changed the process of travel forever.

Although our mindsets and behaviours will eventually return to normality, COVID-19 will permanently change many elements of how we work, and workplaces will need to adapt accordingly. Individuals have had to learn how to work from home, and remote working can be expected to remain popular, meaning companies that did not previously have a virtual workforce must become more flexible. Statistics from the US show that 54% of workers prefer to work remotely, and would be happy finding a job that allows them to do so, with the new normal to encompass increased flexibility, with individuals able to choose their situation.

Meanwhile, workplaces will look and operate differently when individuals return to work, with temperature checks and social distancing among the measures most likely to be implemented. Conference rooms, meeting spaces and video studios are poised to play an increasingly important role in the setup of office spaces, as workplaces adopt a more accommodating and interactive environment, allowing for remote interactions.

It is also worth noting that individuals found working from home a challenge not because of isolation, but rather due to a lack of a dedicated space to conduct Zoom meetings. GetApp reports that a large majority of individuals faced technical challenges working from home, which can, of course, decrease productivity – and, moving forward, technology considerations can be expected to form an important component of new home designs and the remodelling of existing spaces. Concurrently, as employees increasingly work remotely, companies will need to broaden the scope of e-learning platforms, ensuring employees continue to build skills and develop professionally.

Video will be at the heart of many of the changes detailed above, with it having already become fully integrated into the work experience in an astonishing variety of ways. Supervisors and staff members have gotten used to seeing each other in their home environments, blurring the line between work life and personal life, and it can be expected that these changes will be consolidated in 2021 and beyond.