In this final excerpt from the Workplace Interrupted round table discussion, Heather asks Paul, “As a fellow technologist, what is the type of technology that’s around now and what’s in the pipeline to support employees to re-engage in a hybrid type of working, partly from home, partly from a re-purposed office environment.”
“Going forwards, it will be important that collaboration technology is really easy to use, and we can certainly design systems that are instinctive by using familiar devices such as mobile phones” he said. “Additionally, there is a Cloud based software already out there, albeit rather clunky at the moment, that we’re calling Software Defined AV, which carries out checks on meeting rooms to ensure that everything is working correctly in the space. This is particularly helpful if a User is specifically attending the office to use a meeting room. If there are problems in their booked room, it allows them to either make alternative arrangements, or the software can divert them to another available space. This system is a win, win situation where the interface is easy for the Client, the technology is stable on the Cloud and it reduces the investment in hardware.” Paul said.
“Working from home isn’t going to go away entirely though, is it?” asks Heather.
Nicholas shared that, at Swiss Re, there was already a ‘Work From Home’ programme in place before COVID, which provided certain functions with the technology and policies enabling employees to ‘Work from Anywhere’ at a Line Manager’s discretion, with output being the measurable rather than presenteeism. “This enabled the company to remain unscathed, productivity wise, when new ways of working were imposed on our employees. However, the long-term fall-out of this is yet to be determined for those who thrived working in isolation versus those who only thrive with high levels of social interaction and connectivity” he said.
“From our perspective” said Tom, “we have a strong Business Continuity plan in place which has different layers for delegation of knowledge. When COVID happened, it really tested the resilience of our organization that had embodied knowledge in a mentoring fashion. As, by definition, we build things, we don’t actually need to be anywhere in person and therefore COVID really has not disrupted us at all in our work output for our Clients.”
“As a panel, how do you see the future of work with technology integration?” asked Heather.
“We have to accept that we now can’t work without technology. How we use a workspace may change over time but the reliance on technology will only increase over the coming years, with easier to use, Cloud based collaborative technology such as AV being in place.” said Paul.
“I think we need to question whether, as an organization, we have the right mechanisms in place to support our existing workforce in adapting to new ways of working, whilst ensuring we are properly positioned to enable the ‘digital native’ new workforce to land effectively.” said Nicholas.
“I think this is a very difficult question to answer as futurists are never right” said Richard as he continued to hedge his bets on whether the future of workplace will look more like Star Trek or Matrix. “The way that we have historically thought about organisations, (or the Science of Business Administration, as I like to call it), is going to die because it’s linear and short term, and not the right way think. Firstly, I think we’ll start to understand Complexity Science better, which is the understanding of how people and things connect and affect each other. Secondly, I think we will have a broader and richer understanding of human behaviour. The human interdependencies within an organisations. Some organisations will achieve this slowly but some will be ‘the winners’ in this step change.”
The Panel agreed that, as an employer, they should be using real time data to inform and empower employees to make the right choices for themselves, with an example given as giving employees the choice of which floor to sit on with the least number of people and therefore potentially the better air quality. However, as Richard noted that, by using sensors to achieve this end, there is a potential to ‘unleash the beast’ and Employers and Landlords should be aware that there could be challenging outcomes associated with total transparency.
To finish, Heather wrapped with a quote from Steve Jobs, that “Creativity is just connecting things” and thanked the panel for connecting creatively for a thought provoking and lively discussion. We hope you enjoyed it too!