What will the Future of Work really look like? Our insights after 2 days of discussions with enterprises, vendors and analysts
Author: Harry Chapman, Content Director, UC EXPO
Everyone I have spoken to recently, from a major enterprise CIO to an analyst, or vendor, is thinking about what the Future of Work looks like. I felt it was about time we got some experts together to discuss it so we convened the UCX Digital event on this topic, with brands like Google, RingCentral, TSB Bank and the British Heart Foundation.
2 days of discussions focused on a number of core topics including the office of the future, user experience and setting up an effective remote working environment. But what were the conclusions?
Get the basics right
Simply put, having a good network connection is vital. Google have invested a lot in their remote workers, giving each employee an allowance to spend on their home office, however Serge Lachapelle, Product Management Director at Google said that the first thing he tells his team members to buy is a basic network cable so they don’t suffer from Wi-Fi issues.
Going into the future homes will need high speed internet connections of at least 100mbps download and upload (yes UK government and broadband providers, it’s time to step up to the plate!) and this could have an impact on house prices.
Second, most people will need some sort of home office space. Expect many more people to look for this when they are moving home, taking into account factors like size (will it fit all of your equipment?), connectivity strength (will those video calls go by without a hitch?) and ease of access (will you have any interruptions from your pets or your kids that everyone actually secretly enjoys?).
Hybrid is the future
Some of us are hoping to never go back to the office. I’m sorry to disappoint you but this just won’t happen. Companies have huge amounts of money invested in commercial property and being around team members helps us share ideas and build networks.
Rather, the group agreed that there will be more remote working but offices will be used differently, as a meeting, networking and ideas space. Let’s not forget, everyone doesn’t want to work at home, particularly those of us with small city flats with poor connectivity, or those who live on their own!
I expect there to be a 3 days at home, 2 days in the office or some similar mix in the future, but this will be company and job specific, dependent on the needs of the business.
Health and Wellbeing
Do you find people want to talk all the time? And is there more of a preference for video calls? One of our participants mentioned that at the height, he was in 16 meetings per day, mostly over video call. One CIO I spoke to recently was concerned about the intense impact of working from home and video call fatigue.
People are still adapting and settling into a new way of working and trying to replicate the office environment. Video calls are great, but they are a tool and one of many. Let’s face it, you can’t yet fully replicate face to face chats while making a coffee or at someone’s desk. We’re human and need to see body language as well as someone’s face. So collaboration has to be different, making the most of chat and collaboration tools so your team members don’t feel drained by back to back video meetings. Have more informal one on one chats with your team members, using chat and messenger systems to keep in touch and to make it feel less intense. Gareth Johns from RingCentral made a good point that ‘it’s about choosing the right tool at the right time and it doesn’t have to be video all the time.’
Above all, think about the pressures on your individual team members. Getting collaboration right and cutting intense meeting schedules is just one piece of the puzzle. In this environment those with young children or those living on their own can find it harder. Make sure they are getting outside, or seeing other people in the week (at a distance!) to keep themselves sane.
To conclude, the Future of Work has many different paths and may have different forms in the future. There are however a number of things that are clear.
The first is that there will be significantly more remote working. Businesses have got past the fear and cultural barriers, remote workers are likely to be the majority, no longer the minority. Employees will work in a hybrid form, spending some time in the office and some time at home but this will depend on the specific aims and needs of their company and themselves. For example, in the business I work in, events, I can see us needing to be in the office for a full week before the event as being close to your colleagues in that busy time does make a difference.
Second, managing the mixed environment where some employees are at home and some in the office will be one of the biggest challenges companies face. It’s easy now when everyone is at home or when everyone is in the office, but finding new frameworks to ensure remote workers don’t feel left out and their voices are heard is critical for business performance, staff motivation and retention.
Third, offices will be redesigned. They will become a place where costs are cut in the long term (remember many businesses are tied into commercial contracts for their offices, so this won’t be immediate) and will become a meeting, socialising and collaboration space, rather than just a place of work.
Finally, user experience is the thing that’s often forgotten about. Remote working solutions now are great and we’re lucky this pandemic happened during a period where we have things like video call. Video calling is now like email and taken for granted. Next, we expect new and innovative experiences developed by the major tech companies, with users looking for the best solution to improve their productivity but also importantly, their wellbeing.