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As part of a campaign looking at the workplace of the future, CEO of TeleWare, Steve Haworth, predicts how the future workplace might have evolved by 2020.

Where to work?

The growth of mobile working will undoubtedly lead to more and more people working from home, as is already the case. However, our innate need for socialisation means that the need for interaction with others will continue to be important. This is where local working hubs will come in, where employees from various organisations will work under the same roof. Small, agile companies will form virtual teams for projects and then disband as and when necessary, whilst company structures will change to accommodate this.

The workplace of the future will be less about company choices and more about YOU, the employee, and YOUR choices.

Independence

Independence does not suit everyone, and with it comes challenges. The trend of working away from a physical office will mean that employees must take responsibility for many of the things that they rely on their employer for, such as IT and administrative support. This increased individual responsibility will no doubt lead to service companies cropping up to provide the supporting infrastructure that these employees will be looking for. These support service companies are likely to become key players in this new market themselves.

Independence also means that employers must trust employees to maintain their working hours, be accessible to colleagues and customers, and to speak up about any issues if necessary. To do this, it is vital that employers clearly communicate to employees what is expected of them and how those expectations can be achieved. If the practice can be embraced and driven by senior teams and initiated from the top, all the better.

Technology as an enabler

Technology will play a huge part in this new workplace, and its implementation will make or break businesses. Many different types of communication tools will emerge to accommodate and facilitate this new collaborative working style. As well as this, the wide variety of technology that we already use away from the office, such as Skype and instant messenger, will begin to be used for work purposes as employees look to reach each other in the most convenient ways possible whilst at home, in transit and in hubs.

More and more technology will begin to be provided as a service from the cloud over mobile devices of all shapes and sizes. These cloud computing solutions will allow businesses to operate flexibly, reduce costs and guarantee ease of use for employees, all of which will be of great importance given that many employees will be working away from the main office space.

The increased dependence on cloud services, as well as the employment of such a variety of communication platforms means that we will be swamped with information 24/7, 365 days a year. Those that can best decipher the huge volumes of information, and make use of the insights to drive greater productivity and customer experiences will be the winners.

The global picture

Of course, there will still be large companies; in fact, these will get even larger than they are today, and for them the world will become smaller. However, they, like so many other businesses, will have to adapt their model to become decentralised if they want to remain agile enough to compete in the changing landscape.

Geography will become less of a challenge, in some part thanks to the incredible innovation of 3D printing, which will gradually reduce businesses’ dependency on manufacturing regions. This will, in turn, reduce transportation costs and waiting times. Drones, another new technology which is now finding itself in the mainstream, will be utilised to transport items from A to B in a controlled and timely manner.

How can we make it work for us?

Used well, this huge variety of technologies can provide businesses with so many opportunities. If harnessed properly, technology will allow them to increase employee productivity whilst also increasing their bottom line. Employees themselves will feel more fulfilled in their role as its flexibility will allow them to save money (on things like childcare and commuting) and spend more time with those that make them happy.

One thing is for sure – now is the time to prepare. Already, trying to make sense of the amount of data generated by employees and customers is overwhelming for businesses, as is the investment needed to develop this data into meaningful actions. But making the first step is the most important, and will mean that companies are well placed to adapt their business model when the time comes.

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Emma.Catlow
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