Automattic, parent company of WordPress.com and founded by WordPress creator Matt Mullenweg, is perhaps the best example of a fully distributed company. The company’s recent closure of its San Francisco office is part of a long culture of remote work – only six percent of its employees work in the Bay Area, with the rest spread out over 50 countries . As a billion-dollar business, Automattic is testament that companies can thrive even with flexible working arrangements.
New ways of work are increasingly becoming the rage on the other side of the world. According to the Microsoft Asia Workplace 2020 study, only 29 percent of respondents in Asia-Pacific spend all their work hours in the office, with a full three quarters relying on smartphones for work . As the digital natives of Generation Y and Z enter the workforce, this trend is only set to accelerate.
In this age of rapid business and technological change, changing values and a dearth of talent are also driving different ways of working. Telstra’s Connecting Commerce report found that the digital talent crunch is a top worry for many executives in Asia-Pacific and around the globe . The need to fill in the gaps, and a thirst for work-life balance will fuel part-time, after-hours, contractors, freelancers and other flexible working relationships. Creating a more flexible working environment will be a key step towards attracting and retaining talent.
The next-generation technologies enabling future ways of work
So, what does the future workplace look like? As far as we can imagine, it will be characterised by flexibility, mobility and collaboration. In other words, businesses must allow employees choice when it comes to working hours, the ability to work from anywhere at any time, and to collaborate effortlessly in teams scattered across the globe. Slack, Whispir, Cisco’s Spark and Microsoft’s Teams are some digital collaboration tools that are already becoming mainstays in every organisation, enhancing work in dynamically changing, agile teams.
1. Mobile and cloud
A good example of how a simple adoption of IT can liberate a workforce is The United States General Services Administration’s (GSA) rethinking of its workspace approach. As part of a larger effort to modernise its IT footprint, the organisation adopted mobile and cloud technologies, allowing workers to connect to critical systems any time they needed. This capability was pivotal during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, allowing field workers to carry out crucial emergency response wherever they could find an internet connection.
2. Internet of Things (IoT)
By 2019, 86 percent of all organisations in Asia-Pacific will also have some form of IoT technology in place . The emerging trend of everything-to-everything communication will coincide with artificial intelligence, resulting in virtual assistants and intelligent devices to automate tasks like making lists and scheduling appointments. With these in place, employees’ time is freed up to engage productively with meaningful, strategic work.
3. Call convergence in the network
72 percent of organisations in Asia-Pacific say that the majority of their employees use personal computing devices in the workplace . While Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies save costs for the organisation and increases employee productivity, continuity between desk phone and mobile phone is often compromised.
Call integration in the network allows seamless switching between the desk and mobile phone. Front-of-house staff in particular become liberated from their work desks – always contactable at a single number while on the move, resulting in greater productivity and customer satisfaction.
A new kind of mobile network for a new way of work
Just as a building needs strong foundations, next-generation technologies need a new kind of network. Reliable connectivity, higher capacity and lower latency are key to support more people exchanging a greater volume of data at the same time. In addition, more than 80 percent of executives believe that 5G technologies will have positive effects on multiple areas of their business . This will be the next frontier for the network, and will plumb the full potential of next-generation technologies to deliver business outcomes.
In 2015, Gartner declared that “every employee is a digital employee” . That still holds true today, if not truer than ever. With the right business culture, human resource practices and managed service provider, organisations are well on the road to a holistic digital workspace strategy. At the end of the day, a digitally liberated workforce is an engaged workforce – and that only spells good things for the organisation at large.
Håkan Ericsson, Chief Technology Officer, Telstra