Activity-based planning. Destination planning. Alternative workspaces. Mobile workers. Coworking. This is the new normal of work for the mobile world. Work anywhere and everywhere policies are having a huge impact on the IT network and technology infrastructure needed to support today’s workers.
The future “workplace”
John Brisk is a Real Estate Business and IT Relocation Specialist at Netrix, a full service IT provider that specializes in bridging the gap between technology and construction. We asked him about all these technology trends in the workplace and what this means for the office—on- and off-site. “A lot of forward-thinking companies see that the entire workforce is shifting,” he said. “They are looking at different ways to approach real estate footprints, office design, and technology that make them more attractive places to work. The biggest change is that companies are trying to reduce their real estate footprint and get smarter about the real estate they have. Better technology is needed to offset these reductions.”
According to this CBRE infographic that looks at technology trends in the workplace, workers will become “consumers” of the workplace. Today’s mobile worker is just a glimpse of the future when it comes to workers of tomorrow. According to CBRE Smart Workplace 2040, the workplace of the future will be wildly different, with fixed workplaces and conventional timetables being traded for working from home and even “trophy workplaces,” where workers can meet and network with others. Work is becoming something we do, not just a place we go.
Intellectual security with on-demand consumption
According to Brisk, technology in the workplace will need to respond to an on-demand, as-needed “consumption” model: “The whole technology marketplace is shifting. It is easier and more efficient for corporations to consume technology in a similar way as individuals do,” he says. In the consumption model, we use only what we need, and purchase additional services—such as apps or devices—on an as-needed basis. “Corporations are doing less big spending on fixed infrastructures, data centers and wiring. They want the ability to, on demand, spin up additional servers and flex capacities, all while keeping the workforce constantly connected. It’s now key for the workforce to be able to access whatever they need to do their job at that moment.”
This brings up the issue of intellectual security. Brisk continues, “This on-demand ‘consumption’ model requires faster delivery, more options, and the ability to aggregate and move around to different hosting sites. But the big difference is that corporations still have to hold on to their intellectual property (IP). If an employee leaves, we need to be sure they don’t take company IP with them.”
First, it’s crucial to understand why changes are being made. Is it to attract Millennials, reduce footprint of real estate, or something else? Second, Brisk says you should align technology needs with business goals on a strategic level from a people-first perspective. This could be the biggest shift: as work becomes something we do rather than somewhere we go, the focus for all workplace strategies shifts (most importantly) to people. Third, how does your company want to pay, consume, and use technology? How can that best be supported?
Building bridges with the tech of tomorrow
The challenge is that best solutions are still somewhat subjective. Most of the advice on the subject is still compartmentalized, mostly because a lot of it comes from manufacturers. Brisk says, “The manufacturers all have a good roadmap and believe that their roadmap is the proper solution, but most of the time this advice is coming in a push fashion based on their messaging. IT, facilities, audio visual, and communications still tend to function in silos. The best results happen when these silos bridge and they are looked at more holistically. From my perspective, companies large and small are hungry for these solutions.”
As we look to seamlessly transition to the on-demand worker of the future, the biggest challenge for most organizations is bridging different technologies. Brisk says, “There are great tools out there such as Skype for business… and many more, but we’re missing a way to tie everything together. We want the seamless ability to use devices, software, and facilities to support our workers, but a lot of companies still break things up between multiple suppliers and technologies.”
Another required and major shift as this new mobile workplace grows is rethinking how budgets are created. Brisk says, “Square footage calculations or head counts are still driving budgets, which really doesn’t align with what a company needs now.” This shift will be fundamental to the future of the IT industry as we look at how to equip our workplaces and align technology strategies.
The future is still unknown, but economic indicators give us a glimpse into what’s coming to technology trends in the workplace. What’s coming is a highly mobile, tech dependent workforce. One thing is clear: in the future, every company will be a technology company.