How do big and small businesses cater to the demands of the always on, global economy?
Cloud computing, smartphones and the mobile internet are changing the workplace so investment in technology is essential for companies wanting to stay ahead in an increasingly fast moving and competitive global marketplace, says a recent research paper.
In a collaboration between Dell, Intel, TNS and Cascade Insights, twenty experts from various countries were consulted to give their vision of how the workplace is evolving. The study showed some stark differences between different working cultures.
Experts on the panel believe businesses in advanced economies such as Australia are seeing an increase in demand for mobile solutions, while others suggest technological advancements will improve workplace flexibility. All the experts see investing in technology as being essential in staying ahead in the global marketplace.
Changing work attitudes
Remotely accessible workplaces have blurred the lines between home and office. In almost all countries the ability to work from home is considered an extension of the workday with an expectation of working outside of normal hours now being seen as standard work practice.
Dorie Clark, writer for the Harvard Business Review & Forbes Magazine contributor, sees these developments as being mixed for staff, “technology is a double edge sword for workers because the benefit is that the enhanced flexibility and mobility that people have allows for really exciting developments with the potential for better work-life balance.”
“People can be working from any geography. Companies can be saving money because they require less space to house their employees. If people want to take time to work from the Berlin office or the San Francisco office, they can do it,” Ms Clark continues. “If they want to stay home with their kids, it is now much easier depending on the corporate culture’s openness to that arrangement for them to actually, technologically be able to do it. The problem is that our culture of work has not evolved yet to keep pace with the fact that you now can work all the time.”
Around the world, collaboration is becoming one of the keywords of business as cloud services and mobile connectivity allows workers to work closely together.
“Whether it’s for concentration and focused work, whether it’s for different kinds of collaboration, small or big informal brainstorming, review, lots of people talk about collaboration. The term means a lot of different things depending on what work you’re doing, who you’re collaborating with, etc. and it isn’t always the same.” says Singapore based Susan Lim, the Head of Workplace Strategy for Jones Lang LaSalle’s Asia Pacific operations.
The mobile device
One of the key changes in workplace trends is that of remote meetings. In Australia and most advanced countries, affordable mobile internet services coupled with ubiquitous smartphones are seeing workers increasingly using their own devices for video meetings.
“There is a bit of reduction on the telepresence side of things because tools are getting much better where you can have reasonably good quality video on a mobile device,” says Jones Lang LaSalle’s Susan Lim.
Mobile devices though won’t take over completely. In many regions, including Australia, managers still express a preference for face-to-face communication and see them as critical to building relationships. This view was born out by the US, UK and Chinese experts on Dell’s panel.
While these changes are taking place worldwide, countries like South Africa and Turkey are lagging in mirroring workspace trends as limited internet service make remote working more difficult.
For Australian companies dealing with customers or suppliers in countries and regions with lower broadband penetration or slower internet speeds, they need to consider the additional barriers they’ll face in real time collaboration and remote access.
With an explosion of connected devices and services focusing on collecting and delivering data as a result of mobile connections, the experts believe the Internet of Things will increasingly become part of the workplace.
Russia, South Africa and Brazil are pessimistic of when Internet of Things will actually arrive in their regions, but most Asia, Middle East and European respondents believe Smart Cities technology will have applications in the workplace.
The expected timeline for the Internet of Things to become accessible is anywhere from two to five years from now. Ultimately, regardless of when and where the Internet of Things comes into fruition, the general consensus is it will lead to more opportunities to work effectively.
For Australian businesses this means having the latest technology to deal with IoT technologies as they are rolled out across supply chains and as part of government initiatives like smart cities.
As a subset of The Internet of Things, experts indicated that Big Data was more likely to be key in the near future, particularly as it relates to workforce productivity and performance reviews. For remote workers this may resolve the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ fear of being overlooked if they are not in the office.
The challenge for businesses as they apply Big Data analytics to their workforce will be protecting that information and complying with workplace and public privacy regulations in different countries.
With businesses becoming more connected and almost every employee having a smartphone, the workplace of the future is going to one offering flexibility and support for staff. As long as the need for collaborative environments and specialist tools remains, the office will still be an essential part of working life.
In Australia, the message is continued investment in technology is key for businesses – and the nation – to stay ahead in what is a rapidly evolving global and local marketplaces which are becoming increasingly competitive.