There is a ton of buzz surrounding the “Future of Work”, but like most futuristic predictions and prognostications, the future workplace is far closer than you might think and far less “buzzy” than they would have you believe.
If you read through the litany of pundits who wax extemporaneously about what workplaces will be like in years to come, you hear about things like “open concepts” and “remote workers”. You also hear a lot about creating effective workplace culture and crafting maximized organizational structures. And of course, you also hear a lot about the benefits of AI. These are buzzwords, and if I had a nickel for every buzzword that gets thrown at me on a daily basis, I would have retired many years ago. That being said, if you peel away the buzzwords you uncover some truly impactful trends that are driving the workplace of the future.
Trend #1: Improved communication and focus in future workplace
Technology has been a boon for business, and that is especially true for small and medium sized business. Technology has shortened the playing field by reducing the costs required to make your business run efficiently. As technology has moved to the cloud, it has become more accessible. At the same time, technology has also created much distraction. Technology has consistently interrupted our day with pings, rings, messages and texts. Your attention has become more fragmented as technology intrudes deeper into your day. Across all sizes of business, managers are starting to realize there is a point of diminishing returns for technology and they are finding ways to use it differently and turn it to their advantage. Video conferencing is one great example. Video conferencing allows for eye-to-eye contact. It holds both parties accountable for the conversation and for not being distracted. On phone calls and audio web-conferencing you can multi-task and it is proven that when you multi-task, your IQ drops. The mind of a human being is optimized for focus and inter-personal communications. Looking at someone when you speak to them is not only good etiquette, but it helps your brain to remember the key details of the conversation. The more you focus on people, the more you are able to connect with them, and connection builds relationships.
Trend #2: Using technology to improve human connection
Which brings me to my next trend, the use of technology specifically to drive better relationships. While technology of the recent past has made businesses more productive and efficient, it tended to hamper the true human connection. Think email and even conference calls. The face-to-face interaction was missing. People are starting to realize that a call is far better than email, and a video call, even better. Picking up and reaching out to someone may never be as efficient as typing a message and hitting send, but it is more efficient when you factor in the resulting back and forth that results. Messaging is great for some things, but face-to-face communication can be better for your business.
AI also helps to create better connection. We are seeing the first wave of voice assistants enter the workplace and these are being used to capture information and make it available for later. Having a record of a conversation, either in the form of a searchable transcript or as AI-generated notes, makes it easier for you to focus on the people you are speaking with. This use of technology creates better inter-personal connection and is useful for delivering more effective business relationships.
Trend #3: Increasingly integrated access to information
The workplace of the future is clearly dependent on data, but the important thing for you and your business is the ability to have immediate access to that data and the insights it represents. Over the last few years we created more data than the entirety of human existence combined prior. Now, we are finding out how to use that data. Here’s one example I’m sure you can relate to: How many times have you forgotten (or maybe not even known) a person’s name in a meeting? There are video conference solutions that marry facial recognition with data enrichment and auto-label the faces of the people on the call so you can always know who is talking and attribute the ideas to them. With technology like this you never miss out on someone. You can also never miss a detail because of the aforementioned transcription tools. Virtual assistants make it easier to capture important notes and leverage them later as they are pushed automatically into workflow. This along with voice search, or the ability to access structured data from inside the organization while in a meeting means you have unfettered access to insights that can help you collaborate better.
Trend #4: The best people on the best projects, no matter…
The most important thing about the future workplace is the removal of boundaries. With remote workforces you can access the best people and put them on the most appropriate projects, no matter where they work or when they work. They can work 3,000 miles away and they can work the opposite hours you do, but you can always be on contact and moving a project down the field to fruition. Hire the best, allocate the best resources and never have work paused for time zones.
Much of what I just described above are elements of what most people consider to be the “future of work” but the fact is that all of these are available to you today. Take a look around and unearth these kinds of tools in your current workplace architecture, or find partners, vendors and solutions that can help you push these initiatives forward and integrate them into your business today. If you adopt the future of work today, the business of tomorrow will be far more effective and profitable. I think you’ll agree with the results.
Cory Treffiletti is a successful marketer, author, entrepreneur and student of popular culture with a deep background in digital dating back to 1994. Cory is currently Global Head of Marketing for Cisco’s Webex.com and previously was Chief Marketing Officer for Voicea (acquired by Cisco in 2019). Cory was also CMO for BlueKai, the leading cloud-based, marketing data management platform acquired by Oracle in 2014, where he became CMO of the Oracle Data Cloud. Before going in-house as a B2B marketer, Cory pioneered the digital agency world by launching strategy firm Catalyst SF and as an executive in industry-leading agencies such as i-Traffic, Freestyle Interactive, and Carat (Aegis). Cory’s strategies have been documented in his weekly column on digital marketing since 2000 for MediaPost’s OnlineSPIN/Media Insider column as well as his book Internet Ad Pioneers (available on Amazon.com). Cory has served on a number of industry boards and networking organizations and continues to advise companies with a unique B2B offering and a specific set of challenges to overcome.