Planning Workplaces for the 2020s

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The Third Platform era of computing is a confluence of Mobile, Big Data and Analytics, Social, and Cloud. These four technologies are important, foundational elements in a digital enterprise that can disrupt the market and successfully adapt to a new, digital transformation-focused economy. They are changing, and will continue to change/evolve, and in turn will change where we work, the way we work, and the tools we use to produce work. We need to plan now for the workplaces that we will see next year and the years following.

Who are we planning for?

At least 50% of the workforce will be millennials by 2020, with a growing number of Gen Z workers adding to the mix of people for whom technology is a way of life, not just a tool for business. More than half of millennials expect to work for 3 to 5 employers in their lifetime, and a quarter, 6 or more. They are less motivated by money than they are by working with the latest and greatest technology, and working on challenging projects. That’s not to say money doesn’t matter, but the difference between accepting one job or another might depend on the flexibility offered by an employer, and the devices that come with the job. Having the right technology is important. Laptops must be high-performance, lightweight for portability, and up-to-date. Every Millennial and Gen X worker carries around at least 3 devices – a laptop, a tablet, and a smartphone. The lifespan for devices should not exceed 2 or 3 years.

Businesses all over the world are experiencing shortages in specific kinds of talent, talents such as coders, data scientists, project managers, user experience (UX) designers and business development managers. Since job security for Millennials comes from having the skills to be persistently employable, rather than from keeping a long-term position, attracting the best talent in skills associated with digital transformation will depend on workplace conditions, an attractive list of choose-your-own-devices (CYOD), the freedom to choose their own hours, and the opportunity to work with peers they respect, and on projects that are challenging and meaningful.

How will they work?

Companies have learned that many employees are more productive and satisfied when they have a say in where, when, and how work gets done. People working from where they want, doing the hours they prefer, using the technology they love, will work much longer hours than any 9-to-5 employee.  To capture this advantage, managers must learn how to harness the benefits of flexibility so it leads not only to convenience, but also to increased employee productivity and engagement.

It will be important to establish an environment that enables work collaboration both locally and remotely. While point solutions exist for elements of collaboration, enterprises should consider selecting a tightly-integrated collaboration suite that includes web tools for business email, instant messaging, contact management, calendars, file sharing, document management, project management, portals, workspaces, video and audio conferencing, and social media tools. Having everything in the cloud will facilitate connections from anywhere on the globe, and will probably make security much less of an issue. Office 365 or full Microsoft 365 will cover most of the bases.

There is definitely a role for social with future working. This is not just Twitter and Facebook. Social media is a term used to collectively describe a set of tools that foster interaction, discussion and community, allowing people to build relationships and share information. There’s a lot of upside for the business in that. And for those that fear social eats into productivity, don’t forget that as a result of workplace flexibility with no fixed hours, the average home-based employee is willing to put in 19 more hours of work each week (Deloitte – Workplaces of the Future).

Liquid Workforce

Are the office buildings going to empty out in the next few years? Of course not. But as people work more from home, public transport, coffee shops, and co-working spaces convenient to their homes, there is no need to build and furnish office spaces that cater to 100 per cent of employees. There will probably always be a core of workers who work full-time in the office. For others, it will be a hub they use less often. Employers should re-design the office as a “fly-in/fly-out” space. Flexible workers, when they do come to the office, will just need to bring their devices since the office will be outfitted with casual workstations containing 2 or 3 screens and very-high-speed network connections. Both stand-up and sit-down workstations, a few comfortable armchairs and team spaces both large and small will be used on a first-come, first-served basis.

With an increasing number of temporary staff – the gig economy, freelance, and contractors – and with no fixed location for many of them, security will be an even bigger issue than it already is now. Abandon the concept of closed networks, and plan for data security in an age of multiple devices accessing data from multiple locations. With apps and data increasingly in the cloud, access will be granted on a tiered basis according to the specific user and the specific device.

X-as-a-Service rules

IT assets will go the same way as software is already going now. Multiply the number of workers by the 3+ devices per person and think about how you plan to manage the lifecycles of all those devices. Device-as-a-Service is necessary to take on the increasingly complex job of device management. You can bundle in device updates every 2 to 3 years, as well as minimising security exposures. Other hardware will follow, moving infrastructure assets into the cloud on a subscription basis, thereby also moving from capital expenditure to operating expense.

What now?

Shrink office space

Move from a conventional ‘cube-centric’ office space to one that is open and fosters collaboration and sharing

Consult your millennials and build an attractive CYOD device list – BYOD presents too many security exposures

Engage Device-as-a-Service and Security-as-a-Service providers

For a discussion about these thoughts and ideas, call Area9 at 1300 360 396