Tag Archives: office of the future

The Future of Work – It’s work, but not as we know it.

22 Nov

shutterstock_234722680 robot work

The nature of work is changing rapidly. Digital technologies such as social media, cloud computing, the Internet of Things and mobile are enabling us to work anytime, anywhere on any device.  We are “always-on” and hyper-connected to our work, at a time when the office is no longer the sole workplace and working hours are increasingly flexible. Furthermore, social networking tools such as LinkedIn enable us to connect easily with colleagues, partners and clients, while information on companies and job opportunities can be found at the touch of a button.

Do you realise that we now spend more time communicating than sleeping? Communication has always been a critical component in business but our means of communicating are continuing to evolve away from traditional forms such as e-mail, to more innovative, mobility-driven methods like FaceTime and Skype.  Thanks to recent technological developments, we can now stay connected to the Internet from almost anywhere at any time, meaning our work is no longer confined to the office and is spilling into our personal lives.  The boundaries between work and our personal lives are blurring to the point where the average adult today spends more time communicating than sleeping!

Different mindsets

Adding to these technological trends and developments, the growing prevalence of Millennials is impacting the world of work. Millennials are more tech-savvy, expect to see innovation in the workplace, have a lot of confidence, and tend to rise to leadership positions faster:

The balance of power has shifted

Not only have the barriers between work and personal life been eliminated, the balance of power has shifted in the employer-employee relationship, putting employees firmly in the driving seat.  When considering the future workplace we need to look beyond technology and ask ourselves just what it is we want to achieve.

Workplace transformation must be driven by the desire to empower employees to aspire and achieve, to be their “best selves” at work and to actively contribute to – and share in – the sustainable success of the organization.

To support this transformation, organisational and hierarchical structures are changing, taking into account the needs of a multi-generation workforce and the business demands for increased flexibility, agility and creativity.

Diversity drives innovation

Working in diverse global teams in a 24/7 business environment requires different skill sets, management styles and support tools.  The rise of more hybrid and flexible working structures – independent of organizational structures, business units or country borders – such as communities and “circles” will accelerate problem solving, product/service development and drive innovation. These will allow employees to work on projects and tasks with a clear purpose and objective, putting their talents and knowledge to best use in diverse groups of people with different backgrounds, cultures and skills.

New leadership styles need to be based on coaching, inspiring and rewarding team members to develop their talents and deliver their best. Authentic and empathic leaders will do well in the new world of work where the human side of business prevails.

The rise of the on-demand workforce

For a business or organization to be agile, responsive and innovative the right mix of skills and personalities is essential, some of which will not be available inside the organisation. The emergence of a flexible “on-demand” workforce, consisting of both own and external employees, will require organizations to rethink their sourcing strategy and their reward and talent management programs. Just like we saw a switch to “on-demand” services where you get and pay for only the services you need at any given time, no more and no less, the same will apply to workforce sourcing. Different experts will be sourced internally and externally to work together on projects and tasks, for a set time and with a clear purpose.

A flexible “on-demand” workforce will be key to meet the demands of organizations and businesses to remain competitive, cost effective and innovative.

Scarcity of talent, lack of skills and the increased speed of change will continue to drive the need for an on-demand workforce, giving your organization access to a network of specialists, experts, talents and professionals. This will require a complete overhaul of current HR approaches and processes, particularly with regard to sourcing and talent management.

Robots as co-workers

We’re facing the rise of robots and, if we are to believe the articles and posts in the media, over 50% of jobs could be automated over the next two decades. We’ve already experienced considerable automation of manual labor, especially in manufacturing and engineering. Supercomputers and intelligent software will further automate and replace cognitive work currently carried out by knowledge workers. Particularly analytical tasks, data collection and predictive analysis, but also service tasks such as customer service and healthcare support. Cognitive technologies such as speech recognition, computer vision and machine learning will enable machines that can talk, see, read, listen en learn. Welcome to the robot as co-worker and “talent”.

A well-managed transition of technology into the workforce improves productivity and creates time to add value. Whilst some jobs will be eliminated, others will change and new jobs will arise. Robots will be extremely helpful in improving efficiency and accuracy, providing more time for employees to apply their strengths, skills and talents to add value. Take the job of a translator for example. Technology has improved translation programs to such an extent that the translator’s role has largely changed to that of an editor with time to add value by transforming a good translation into great reading content.

Simplifying the complexity of work

The world is becoming increasingly data-driven.We create an estimated 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day and of all the data held in storage worldwide 90% has been created in the past two years alone! If you consider that the Internet of Things connects currently only 6% of all possible “things”, it is predicted that by 2020 more than 26 billion devices will be connected. Did you know that in one day more than 100 billion emails are exchanged, yet only one in seven is critically important? We spend, on average, 30% of our working day reading and answering e-mails and check our mobile phones more than 150 times a day!

Technology, globalization, social tools, mobility, 24/7 access all contribute to data overload and work stress. Furthermore, the increase in security, regulatory and compliance demands add to the administrative and reporting tasks of every manager and employee. Add to that the different business processes and procedures that grow exponentially with the size of an organization and the multitude of meetings and conference calls that take up further valuable work time, it is clear that work complexity needs to be simplified for organisations to remain agile and competitive.

Simplifying work will create valuable time to focus on the task at hand (“staying in the flow”) resulting in improved productivity and better creativity. This can be achieved by improving the physical work environment with clean desk policies and quiet rooms, simplifying the work itself through better business processes and reduced administrative burdens and applying technology to support new ways of communicating and working together.

Getting prepared for the future of work

To prepare for the future of work, businesses need to start initiating action now in areas ranging from introducing new communication and collaboration tools to establishing different leadership styles, culture changes and organisational structures.  Embracing technology will smooth the transition to a new world of work, and empower employees to develop their talents and deliver their best.

The future of work will be radically different – it’s work but not as we know it. The good news is that most companies are already aware that change is inevitable and many have already started forward-looking initiatives and programs. The challenge lies in engaging and empowering the entire organization to drive a successful transformation to the new world of work.

Disruptive? Yes. Rewarding? Certainly!

For detailed references see http://ascent.atos.net/ready-future-work/


The future work place – is the office dead?

31 Aug



Wouldn’t it be nice to have an office like this to go to every day? Or would you prefer to work in a prestigious office building, or from the comfort of your own home? Perhaps you need to work at your client’s location, or prefer to write that report in a nice cafe with free wifi and great cappucino?

In my recent blog “Where do you get your work done?” , I asked for feedback and views on the best place(s) to work. Responses showed that the majority of the readers would prefer to have the flexibility to chose where to work, depending on the type of work or activity at hand.

Flexibility to work at home and in the office is key to be more productive and creative. Apparantly the workplace is definitely not the best place to foster innovation and generate brilliant ideas. Over 79% said their current work environment did not or only sometimes stimulate creativity and innovation. Apparently the best ideas surface when at home (33%), followed by travelling (24%) and at social events (19%).

So, is the office dead? The answer is no…. providing we start creating a workspace that is fit for purpose and does stimulate creativity. You have made some excellent suggestions, here are just a few:

  • Specially designed spaces and meeting rooms  (the Google campus was mentioned as a good example). Move away from the standard table and chairs, and drab wall colors. Think about lounge chairs, colorful walls, images and plants.
  • Find “outside” meeting rooms with socializing facilities to work and unwind together. Many of these facilities offer free Wifi.
  • Have the right collaboration tools to enable you to connect virtually to colleagues around the world
  • Stimulate fresh ideas and share the results of good ideas that have been implemented more widely
  • Think about free coffee, tea and healthy “brain food” in the office

Perhaps we can try a few ideas together. What about you try a Walk&Talk meeting in the next few weeks. Instead of booking a meeting room, invite your team members to meet in the local parc or find a green area close to your office. Walk and talk, you may find it refreshing! And perhaps set up an online community in which we share great locations for meetings, with details on free wifi, friendly service, excellent coffee.  Any volunteers?

Check out the survey results so far on http://bit.ly/10KS2Mk 

Where do you get your work done?

21 Aug



At first glance it’s an easy, straightforward question. My immediate reply would be my office but, when I start thinking about it, very different locations spring to mind. I create my mental “to do” list when driving to work, my best ideas surface when walking my dogs, strategic papers and presentations are created at my kitchen table,  and the shower often proves ideal for solving problems. 

So is the office dead?  Once upon a time people went to the office because that’s where colleagues, phones, computers and documents were located.  Nowadays, work is something you do, not somewhere you go as  technology allows us to to work anywhere, anytime, and is increasingly dissolving the boundaries between our private and professional lives. 

Whilst technology is offering us more flexibility to work the way that suits us best, office environments seem to be lagging behind. Judging by your comments and feedback on my blog “Desktop Detox”, the office environment  seems to hamper your efforts to create a more efficient worklife, reduces your productivity and, apparently, is a source of much frustration.

When we look at today’s office buildings, we still find the same open-plan architecture that was first developed in the 1960s. It was originally designed to enable more interaction between different managerial levels , to encourage communication, integration and dialogue, and – last but not least – to save occupancy cost in square meters compared to expensive private offices.

Has this approach worked? Well, yes and no. If the open plan layout has been designed with different roles and needs in mind, paying attention to the acoustics and dedicated spaces for social interaction, quick phone calls or meetings, then yes it can no doubt offer a pleasant and productive environment. But more often than not we are faced with old(er) buildings that were not designed to be transformed into open-plan spaces and therefore only offer limited scope for the sort of  changes we need today. This usually results in  a work environment that is counter productive, often too noisy to concentrate, or too quiet for comfort, with irritations over shared blinds (up or down?), air conditioning (on or off?) , food at the desk, colleagues cocooning themselves by wearing headphones, etc.

What about the home office? Should we simply shut the door on the office and work at our kitchen tables or spare room desks? Not everyone feels comfortable with that, not in the least the old school managers who still measure productivity by our presence in the office. Personally, I try to balance working in the office and at home, selecting the best location according to my specific tasks. Working on a strategic paper, creating a presentation or attending back-to-back conference calls I like to do from home. Exchanging ideas, discussing actions and preparing initiatives I prefer to do in the office where I can meet my colleagues share a coffee, socialize, and catch up on the latest office gossip – all key ingredients to help me deliver my best and make me feel at home and a valued member of my work community.

Recent discussions on remote working versus back to the office, argued that the best ideas and innovations are developed when colleagues spend more time together.  But should that be in the office? Perhaps we could have a meeting while walking in the woods, and get inspired by nature. Or meet at a colleague’s home and brainstorm some ideas with a slice of home baked cake and a (good!) cup of coffee. Or rent flexible office accommodation for a few hours for the weekly team meeting. And what about online collaboration and idea generation, the latest social business networks facilitate working in communities and sharing expertise much more effectively.  I feel we need to think outside the office walls and start to revolutionize our workspace to support a  well-balanced 21st century work life. 

So where do you get your work done?  I would like to hear your view to start shaping the workspace of tomorrow now. Join the survey http://bit.ly/10OElxa


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