The future of the User in the Contemporary Workplace

The concept of “work” continues to change. Throughout history we’ve witnessed this as we moved from an industrial to a service based economy.  With that, the nature of work also changed, as people moved from largely process or task driven activities to knowledge based work.  We constantly challenge the original paradigms of work.  How many times have you heard the phrase “work should be something I do not somewhere I go”, yet how many of us are living that experience?

Technology has only recently been available to truly support this philosophy. However, our perceptions of work haven’t really kept up with the pace of change.  In many industries we haven’t changed the organisational culture to measure people by outcomes and behaviours, rather than by physical attendance.  For many, the latter is easier.

This is changing as technology is advancing to enable different ways of working.   Competitive pressures are such that business needs to achieve greater customer engagement and intimacy in the ever increasing digital world. And we have the millienialls and Generation Z workforce challenging classic work paradigms too.

These are human, rather than technology centric trends. Whether that’s adapting to the work/life balance needs of employees, changing cultures to attract and retain the latest talent, or finding ways to get closer to customers.  It’s clear that we need to think more of the individual users, rather than technology that sits at the heart of the Contemporary Workplace.

Users are all different.  They perform different activities; some are mobile, some are not, some create, some consume, some sell.   At a more complex level, users have different lifestyle pressures, and different ways of, and needs for, collaborating with their colleagues and customers. This example is clear in the new workforce for whom collaborative social tools are second nature, and tools like email are slow and cumbersome.

We need to enable the users with appropriate tools to perform their job effectively, not just the devices, but the whole solution.  We call this ‘Workstyling’ and it works; it makes people happier, more effective and drives value, innovation and differentiation to the enterprise.

The future of work is a more distributed, yet ironically more collaborative and engaging environment than we have today.  The “Place” of work really becomes anywhere you need it to be, and there’ll be an appropriate device for you no matter whether that workspace is your train journey home, your front room in the evening, or meeting with a colleague or customer to discuss a new proposition.

We’re embarking on this journey as numerous trends inflect to extend our notion of what a Contemporary Workplace should be.  Mobile, Social, Collaborative, enabling users in a digital world.  Technology is helping to drive this change, but cultures and structures (Both organisational and physical) need to change too.

These things you can’t change overnight, it’s a process of evolution and change.  Users expectations need to be managed, as consumerisation continues to paint the view that organisations aren’t keeping up with what is available in our personal lives. Embracing new technologies such as social, mobile or collaboration can be hugely advantageous, provided its supported by the broader changes to create and embrace new ways of working.

About Paul Bray

Paul is Computacenter’s Chief Technologist for Computacenter in the UK & Ireland @PSBray

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