It’s one year since millions of people started working from home. I had the opportunity to discuss this with a group of forward-thinkers – if the impact of 2020 had changed the way we work forever.
In short, the answer is yes. As we considered the future of work, we predicted a hybrid office/home model, where our work choices and environments become more flexible, and personalization contributes to productivity. But this cannot be achieved in isolation. New technology is playing a pivotal role to enable these changes.
Technology is the quickest connector of people. It can bring people together immediately, without travel costs or travel time; it can also be deployed to optimize the office workspace, to improve our well-being and efficiency.
But perhaps the three things that need to be considered most when deploying technology for a hybrid way of working are: friction, delight, and trust.
Remove the friction
As we worked from home during 2020, I – as many others – discovered the ability to personalize my home workspace. I could immediately choose personal preferences about my entire environment to increase my comfort and productivity. I had a choice.
So as we move rapidly towards the hybrid work model as the norm, the demand for choice in the physical office will increase, along with the need for a common platform to bridge the physical and digital office. It’s essential that employers address the topic of choice now by looking at optimizing existing building technology and deploying new workplace technology to maintain high-level output and well-being.
The biggest dip in productivity is caused by friction points, of time wasted searching for a meeting room, finding a quiet space to focus in, waiting for elevators or escaping an overheated office. The technology to eliminate these friction points from a physical viewpoint is available; it is possible to optimize access control; presence detection and positioning systems allow to easily navigate to available spaces.
When developing a hybrid model and removing friction, the ‘human factor’ and improving well-being will be a key consideration. Organizations will need to relate people’s needs to how office space will be used. To achieve this, learning how to interpret building data to accommodate the end user’s needs and will allow organizations to deliver building intelligence and employee choice on a scalable level.
We know that if we’re delighted by an impulse, we feel better. We feel inspired or creative or able to solve complex problems. But how do we do that remotely when delight in the workplace comes from an impromptu coffee with a colleague, or an inspiring, energetic ideation workshop?
The technology is there, but organizations must consider how to make it feel valuable for the user. There have been huge leaps in technology such as digital whiteboards that enable collaboration very quickly. Virtual event platforms improved enormously throughout 2020 and continue to evolve. Technology has allowed us to experience delight through connectivity and improved well-being through contact.
Although delight can be created, the missing element in current technology is spontaneity. How do we effectively bring functional groups together to promote creativity? Can we ‘virtually’ create a happening where a chance meeting is possible and where from a casual conversation a business benefit might develop? It’s certainly possible, just a little more difficult. No one has managed to crack that code yet, but whoever does will really disrupt the way we work and how we feel about the workplace.
Trust in technology
The hybrid workplace will see a focus on output, on what a person contributes to an organization and what their impact is. To achieve this, organizations need to place their trust in people and technology and be open to change.
Before 2020, there was constant debate if technology could enable personalization sufficiently to increase productivity, to create delight, choice, happiness, collaboration and if it could influence our future workspaces. Suddenly, it has become a reality.
We have to trust that what we can conceive we can achieve, and that technology will continue to support and enable our evolving needs. Our perception of the workplace has changed. The future of work is undergoing one of the greatest transformations in history and with that, our adoption of new technologies and working behaviors need to be flexible enough to future-proof both business and personal needs.
The journey has started. How do you think you’ll be working in 2025? It would be great to hear your thoughts.