Today’s digital workplaces are barely recognizable as the intranets of 20 years ago. A menagerie of communication and workflow tools let us work from wherever we can find WiFi or mobile internet.
This is the age of 100% nomadic workforces, of CEOs that need never meet their employees face to face, of virtual interns, and highly productive workforces experimenting with shorter workweeks.
But business leaders introducing new workplace software still have fear of change to contend with. This week it was revealed that more than six in 10 (61%) employees think the pace of change in technology is too fast, according to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer, which is based on a survey of 34,000+ respondents in 28 markets. It also found that more than half (53%) of employees worry about job losses due to automation, and 58% due to lack of skills or training.
Clearly, as it evolves, workplace software will need to work hard to improve productivity through automation, engage remote employees and better replicate office culture, while still being as intuitive and easy to use as smartphone apps.
Here, five business leaders share their wish lists for the digital workplace over the next decade:
Prioritize mental wellbeing
Andrew Filev, CEO of work management platform Wrike, wants mental wellbeing to become a priority, with workload management tools to make sure employees aren’t burning out:
“Digital work never ends. A construction crew can stand back and admire the project they just finished, lawyers can close a case, and teachers can send kids home for the summer. But digital workers will always have one more email to send, one more campaign to run, or one more line of code to write. With no sense of finality and endless to-do lists, workers risk becoming exhausted.”
Filev thinks it will therefore be critical for employee wellness that the digital workplace allows both task prioritization and more visibility for management, to make sure teams aren’t overloaded. He explains: “Workers need to sit down in the morning and clearly understand how to invest their time, and what the impact will be. Work management tools can protect worker’s mental wellness, and help them find balance and purpose.”
Improve communication intimacy
Sharon Koifman, founder of 100% remote recruitment agency DistantJob, hopes the future virtual workplace will better replicate the office experience.
He explains: “Pretty much all our discussions happen through webcam, because it is a lot more intimate than chatting or email, but current technology is still not intimate enough. Right now we are starting to see technologies–like Facebook VR and even holograms–that make you feel more like the person is in the same room as you are. I wish we could have this technology applied to the conference room.”
Koifman also misses the social aspect of an office. He says: “Last month my team played a virtual version of Cards Against Humanity. It was a great activity that was let down by the UX of the software and the capacity to interact with the other players; the final experience left a lot to be desired. So, I’m researching and investing in finding social tools that will give people the ability to play and interact with each other as if they were in the same room.”
Decentralize all processes
Rodolphe Ardant, CEO of spend management software Spendesk, says the downside of more digital, more remote and less centralized workforces–with institutional knowledge spread all over the world–is that some basic tasks can take longer. As such, he wants tools and technology that will decentralize processes, and make simple actions, like requesting leave or viewing payslips, accessible to all without extra training.
He adds: “It’s important these tools make employees’ lives easier without jeopardizing security or removing control from managers. So, when you digitize processes, you also need to make sure that managerial controls are built in, budgets and approvals are tracked smoothly, and every single step is recorded somewhere. This way everyone can move quickly and efficiently, but you’re not risking the safety of the business.”
Minimize constant distractions
Pegah Ebrahimi, COO of Cisco Collaboration, says one of the biggest priorities for enterprises in the next decade will be learning how to maximize their people’s productive ‘flow’ at work.
Ebrahimi explains: “Currently, too many well-intentioned collaboration tools are causing interruptions. According to one study, the average employee can’t go six minutes without checking email or instant messages, while another study found that 40% of workers never get 30 minutes of focused time in a workday due to constant interruptions from communication tools. Seamless interoperability of our digital workplaces will reduce interruptions from switching between applications.”
She also thinks that cognitive collaboration like AI transcription and virtual assistants will empower workers to manage their time better and work smarter.
Fairly measure productivity
A major focus for Shufti Pro, an AI-based identity verification service, is employee retention and growth. It uses an app to track staff hours logged and tasks completed. But CEO Victor Fredung says, in future, they will be looking for more efficient ways of measuring productivity remotely and rewarding employees accordingly.
Fredung thinks increased usage of digital tools and technologies will give businesses the option to measure employee output in new ways and gain richer data-driven insights so they can enhance the workplace by incentivizing those people with in-demand skills.
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