What Will the Workplace of the Future Mean For You?

You can never predict the future. But the changes that are driving the workplace of the future are already happening.

There are lots of high-tech terms being tossed around these days—big datathe cloud, CRM, the “Internet of things“— that are supposed to represent the dawning of a new age of digital information, communication and collaboration. Or as otherwise known, Information Mobility in the new world of work.

But what does all this stuff mean to the average office worker? In the emerging digital workplace, can they expect things to change, and will those changes be positive ones? Mostly, yes. But how?

According to a report on ZD.com, tech-savvy Millennials will dominate the workplace by 2020, and they will bring with them a staggering array of outside technology – datasets, devices, and apps – that will more often than not be more advanced than what is provided at the office.

“This new mindset around IT is one where users tend to lead the IT charge. It creates a widening chasm between what’s readily possible and what centrally managed organizations can achieve on their own.”

This phenomenon may lead to the decentralization of the office IT staff; a move that experts say is probably a long time coming. But what other ways will our working lives change in the workplace of the future? Read on.

ENTERPRISING COMPANIES

Salesforce and other Customer Relations Management (CRM) software are changing the game when it comes to generating leads and tracking sales goals. Now, as these services increasingly become enterprise products with special, white-label offerings for specific companies, the way businesses engage with customers is fundamentally changing. No longer will CRM be thought of as a stodgy record-keeping tool with little apparent use.

STAYING MOTIVATED

Technology is not only changing the way companies engage with customers, but how they engage internally with their own employees. What’s ironic is that, as the world becomes ultra connected, rates of employee engagement are falling. Using the latest collaborative tools allows management to attempt increasing the currently low rates of employee engagement. Better intranets, gamification of CRM and sales, or in-office social networks will also be tools used to help workers feel more engaged.

TRANSFORMED SPACES

As the Baby Boomers retire, expect the physical layout of offices to change for the better. Look for changes that seamlessly integrate virtual tools like mobile devices and video conferencing. While we can’t promise everyone a Ping-Pong table or a frozen slushie machine, Millennials will definitely bring their high-tech and collaborative ideas to bear on the shape of the new workspace. Shared document management tools will also help your workplace of the future retain the institutional knowledgethat will be leaving with Boomers when they retire.

DEMOCRATIZATION OF EDUCATION

It used to be that those who wanted to become CEOs or obtain other positions of corporate leadership followed a fairly predictable path: after high school, they’d pursue an undergraduate degree, followed by an MBA from a top university. Then, upon landing an entry-level job at a company in their chosen field, budding executives would begin their climb to the top of the org chart. With the advent of innovations like Khan Academy and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), people can now obtain a free online education, even from elite schools like Harvard and Stanford, at their own pace.

Although we’re far from an era where MOOC credentials will carry the same weight on a resume as a degree from an Ivy League school, what these digital universities offer is the chance for self-starters to gain knowledge and new skills that can be applied in the workplace. This is an opportunity available regardless of a person’s past grade point average or ability to pay tuition – and it could end up completely upending the status quo. For the better, we think.

WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY

Google Glass is only the beginning of the Next Big Thing in consumer electronics: wearable technology. As these devices become cheaper and their adoption more widespread, we can expect to see them paired with augmented reality enhancements that, according to SAP’s business innovation blog, “will deliver real-world input that people perceive with portable/wearable/implantable technologies to monitor and provide feedback on daily life, especially … personal health.”

Human Resources departments will be able to use this feedback to tailor employee insurance policy offerings and create incentives to drive desired behaviors. For instance, the workplace of the future might see a “smart” office chair that detects a spike in its occupant’s heart rate or blood pressure, or plunging blood sugar levels. Based on that information, the chair would be able to trigger a text message or email alert to the user recommending a course of action that not only could keep that person healthy, but also save this workplace of the future money by focusing on preventative measures.

NETWORKING IN A NEW AGE

The Internet of Things is a fancy way of saying that very soon, all of our electronics, appliances, vehicles, homes – essentially everything we use on a daily basis, will soon be networked and “talking” to each other. This will enable us to automate everyday tasks, like adjusting the temperature of our homes and offices or turning our lights off.

What this means for the workplace of the future is that businesses will be able to record and analyze this constant stream of information to improve access to and control of all kinds of devices. This will help in the decision-making process by providing layers of actionable data that could lead to improvements in productivity and efficiency, which in turn could vastly improve a company’s bottom line.

DISRUPTIVE DOESN’T HAVE TO MEAN CHAOTIC

Social networks and related technologies are bridging the gaps between public, private, and work life. The result is a flurry of new organizational structures and business models incorporating crowdsourcing, gamification, advanced analytics and more. The coming challenge will be separating the wheat from the chaff by figuring out what the valid innovations are and which are simply empty buzzwords.

It’s in the interest of all businesses to improve collaboration, efficiency, and communication. Management should be thinking beyond just upgrading existing tools. Instead, they should urge their IT departments to develop solid, methodical plans—based on actionable data—to transform employee habits and prepare the office for these coming innovations. Though these new technologies are indeed disruptive, steps can be taken to ensure they don’t result in unbridled chaos.

It’s information mobility. And the time to begin your workplace of the future is now.

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