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News & opinion

28 JUL 2019

Shaping the new world of work

Seven big ideas in technology are set to reimagine the modern workplace. Futurologist and CEO of UnGroup Philip Ross explains what impact this will have on experiences, services and the way you will work.

Physical social network

The raison d'etre of the "place of work" is set to be increasingly around interactions and less about solo work — buildings will become physical incarnations of social networks.

The experience of Generation Z today and their digital lifestyle informs much of what is to come. Their approach to real-time interaction through platforms, such as Snapchat, WeChat and Fortnite, demonstrate an expectation of being connected, "always on", and interacting synchronously and transparently with their friends.

A gamified workplace will be one consequence of this generation, a stark contrast to the staccato exchange of asynchronous communications adopted by the Baby Boomers and Generation X, whose way of working is largely offline in scripted workplaces, with days full of back-to-back meetings.

Read more: How to make social media work for your business

A digital workplace

The addiction of Generation Z to digital platforms will lead to an expectation for, and a realisation of, a digital workplace. This will redefine how and where work is done.

Today, there is an ability for users to choose but decisions and information are imperfect. Data scarcity leads to unintended consequences from ill-informed decisions — we are not optimising our work-life integration. With AI, machine learning and the use of data analytics to define an optimal working day, we will move from self-service to suggestion. Real estate data scientists will analyse past performance, look at current activities, review the "data lake" and recommend where to work, in what space and with which people.

Real-time real estate

Suddenly, buildings can become smart. Rather than the inert containers of old, the rise of the Internet of Things will result in billions of sensors that will measure everything from air quality to occupancy, as well as an intelligent infrastructure that will manage the built environment. These systems will generate huge amounts of information, which will enable smarter decisions.

This vision of real-time real estate cutting costs — energy, food waste and underutilised space — and improving experience along with machine learning and AI, providing predictive analytics and sociometrics, will transform the world of work.

Sensored content: Four smart-city innovations at work in cities across the world

Robot in an office
An addiction to digital platforms will lead to an expectation for, and a realisation of, a digital workplace

An app-centric workplace

Most of us use apps in our personal lives, but when we step into the workplace there is a lack of experience and utility... this will change. We predict that many of the functions people need to be effective during their working day will be provisioned through an app.

From accessing a building, to finding a meeting room, or ordering lunch, new workplace apps will be the dominant user interface. These apps will be "location aware" and will transform user experience, and enhance productivity by better aligning space with activities.

Appy customer: A roundup of the most useful apps for surveyors

A consumerised workplace

Increasing app-centricity cements smart devices as an essential and central tool, but people (especially Generation Z) expect to use these devices for more than just corporate functionality.

The blurring of boundaries between corporate apps and personal social media requires new approaches to work-life integration. Progressive companies have resolved security and compliance issues by allowing people to "bring your own device (BYOD) to work", and using them to access corporate systems. Initiatives like BYOD blur demarcations and complicate the once autocratic approach to corporate technology. Choice and preference will bring predictable and safe corporate technology solutions into tension with a consumer-friendly approach, where people expect the same experience at work as they do at home.

The end of the cable

The cable is dead... it seemed so implausible 25 years ago when I published 'The Cordless Office' report. Back in 1994, people had never heard of wireless technology or, if they had, they were worried about speed, reliability and security.

However, people are now used to wireless technology, in fact they rely on it. iPads do not have an ethernet port, smartphones synchronise with the cloud over WiFi, and 5G wireless networks provide blisteringly fast internet access. The fears over performance and security are largely gone, and people have embraced the flexibility and mobility of wireless technology.

Connecting people, not places and using evermore portable devices that enable "unconscious synchronicity" will become the new normal.

Voice revolution

We are at the beginning of a voice revolution. The use of speech to interact with technology is about to come of age.

The concept of the voice-user interface (VUI) will provide a new way of interacting with systems, platforms and devices. Natural language will increasingly be used to interact with digital assistants, such as Alexa, Siri or Cortana, requesting information, directing requests or searching for knowledge. As conversational computing arrives in the workplace, watch out for a backlash against open-plan offices as noise and distraction drive people back into acoustically optimised spaces.