Work is being redefined – are you keeping pace?

  • Posted on December 16, 2018
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes
future of the workplace

Our daily lives are changing faster and faster – the way we commute, the way we shop, how we socialise – all disrupted by new digital experiences. It’s safe to say we now have the same expectations for how we work. We want to shape our own experiences.

Remember hearing stories about offices with slides, table tennis tables and sleep pods? Thanks to the way we now think about our work, it all seems a bit irrelevant now. But what does this mean for our workplace, and how can we, our organisations, and our customers benefit?

To explore this in depth, I recently spoke to Dave Coplin, founder of The Envisioners, as part of a new podcast series Workplace Experience from Avanade, with each episode focusing on a different facet of this evolution – collaboration, security and people. We wanted to take a step back to discuss the current landscape, what the future holds, and how to derive value from this new world of work.

Redressing the balance
The best organisations are changing the relationship we have with work. For many, the idea that there’s a work/life balance is just that: an idea. How many times do we check emails on weekends? Half of UK employees now read emails out of hours - a 400% increase since 2002. At the same, how many of us do an online grocery shop while in the office?

We’re beginning to realise that flexible working means more than using a laptop from home every Friday.

As Dave says in episode one, the modern workplace should empower people to do their best work. If that means a member of your team prefers to work at midnight on certain projects, then the workplace should cater to that. The rigid nine-to-five in the office mindset should be a thing of the past.

What’s driving change?
Technology enables us to work in personal and unique ways. It connects us to one another like never before. This breaks down barriers to help us understand what our colleagues do, how they do it, and how they like to collaborate best - encouraging us to be better at what we do and ultimately play a bigger part in the workplace.

Secondly, our personal use of technology is driving aspirations for how we want to work. This freer, real-time and always-on mentality borne out of smartphones and social media has entered into our working lives. It’s a new level of flexibility that feels intuitive, particularly to younger generations.

The third factor is that people are more aware of the impact they and their places of work have on society. Brand values are now more important than ever to consumers, who are taking this mentality to their workplace to ask questions around ethics and the environment.

As Adrian Henriques, professor of accountability and CSR at Middlesex University, puts it, companies “should not be seen as a separate power that must be 'balanced' with society in a zero-sum kind of way in order to achieve sustainability. They should be seen more as the locus of productive activities that must be harnessed for the greater good of society as a whole.”

Effective immediately
So how are organisations accommodating this new sentiment around work? Innovative businesses are rethinking the typical focus on efficiency, and the inevitable iterative changes that come with trying to increase it.

Instead, these businesses are focusing on effectiveness by first looking at the desired outcome and bringing in tools that will achieve it. More and more organisations are realising that choosing effectiveness over efficiency gets better results, often at a better price.

Bringing in those tools doesn’t need to be as disruptive as you’d think. As Dave says in our episode on collaboration, people are resilient, and will embrace change if they see the value in it. So if people can see that certain tools will effectively get them to a selected destination, they’ll be much more likely to use them.

Security is no exception. Forward-looking CIOs are examining the value that certain security tools are bringing the organisation, versus the risk in not having them. Security add-ons may inhibit the employee experience, so there’s a decision to be made about whether they’re worth bringing in.

Of course, for all businesses security is paramount, but as Dave says in episode two, IT’s dream scenario would be to have complete control over everyone’s devices, while people want to be free to work however they want. So there’s a balance to be struck that has a big impact on the effectiveness of the workforce.

Demand more
People are becoming empowered to demand more from their workplace. Organisations are listening, and many are responding. While growth will always be about the business, it’s now recognised as meaning something else to individuals: “how is the business facilitating me to grow?”

A holistic approach to how people can deliver their best work is now required. People want to be engaged with in unique ways, and buy into the purpose of what they do, and the business as a whole.

Technology can support this, but people have to be at the heart of every decision before bringing it in. Give the people what they want, and your workplace will be a hub of innovation, inspiration and growth. All without a slide, table tennis table or sleep pod in sight.

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