Welcome to the smart workplace

The way Australians work has changed dramatically in the past few years with the rapid adoption of mobile technologies untethering workers from their desks. Work is no longer a destination but an activity.

Businesses that haven’t started preparing for the workplace of the future should act now to avoid being left behind. The first step is to become familiar with the trends that are likely to shape workplaces over the next five years and beyond.

There are four key trends that are affecting workplaces: social change, technological change, business and industry change, and demographic change. These trends are driving improvements to workplaces that are making them almost unrecognisable compared with the traditional workplace.

Social change is seeing stability replaced by flexibility. Workers will look for opportunities in workplaces that value health and wellness, and the employee experience will become the benchmark of a successful workplace. This includes everything that impacts an employee’s working life, from onboarding and training to career advancement and offboarding.

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These changes will be underpinned by technology, from wearables that help monitor health and productivity to automation that relieves workers of manual, burdensome tasks and frees them up to contribute in more meaningful ways. A more intelligent workplace must also be secure; it’s likely that advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and biometric technology will combine to improve cybersecurity while making it non-intrusive.

The workplace of the future will also be more considerate of the environment. This means businesses will use technology to replace carbon-intensive activities such as travel. Instead, virtual reality (VR) will make it easier for people to work together without having to travel to a physical office.

Collaboration will also be essential, and brands will look beyond their own organisations to partner strategically with others to co-create and innovate. The talent pool will become global as location ceases to matter for most roles, which means competition for the best talent will continue to be fierce but accessing the skills companies need will be easier.

Finally, as we approach the next decade, the demographic makeup of the workforce will be the most diverse it’s ever been. Corporate culture will continue to transform around various needs and working styles, from people continuing to work later in life to Gen Z entering the workshop as digital natives, so businesses need to meet the needs of a diverse group of employees. Technology like augmented reality (AR) will help experienced employees collaborate and transfer knowledge without needing to be in the same place.

To take advantage of these trends and prepare for the future of work, organisations should embrace five key concepts:

  1. Freedom: blurring or removing the line between the employee and the consumer will improve the employee experience and the customer experience, leading to stronger performance.
  2. Compliance: giving employees the freedom to use technologies and platforms they prefer will help boost productivity, but it’s important not to risk security and compliance.
  3. Intelligence: there’s more data available than ever; businesses must harness it and extract insights from it to drive better decision-making and operational performance.
  4. Wearables: wearable devices are already mainstream with smartwatches and fitness trackers becoming commonplace. Businesses can leverage this technology to benefit both the employee and the organisation, including caring for their health and well-being.
  5. Knowledge: sharing skills and knowledge more broadly around the organisation through easy-to-use collaboration and communication platforms is critical to driving creativity and innovation, allowing organisations to deliver value to their customers.  

Businesses that begin to explore these concepts now and prepare their organisation for evolution will be better placed to thrive in a transformed environment.

Lucy Cobb is the head of digital workplace services at Fujitsu Oceania.

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