The Future-Proofed Workplace: How Tech Can Drive Long-Term Success

“Nothing is true. Everything is probability,” said famed technology entrepreneur Mike Lynch, in a 2015 interview with Wired magazine. Often referred to as Britain’s answer to Bill Gates, Dr Lynch was talking about how companies draw up their plans for the future – and of course, he was right. There is no way to predict the time to come completely accurately, especially in the business world. What we can do is prepare our staff and our offices to be as adaptable as possible. Being ready for whatever the market can throw at you is the hallmark of a business that is likely destined for a prosperous future.
The Future-Proofed Workplace: How Tech Can Drive Long-Term SuccessOpenTable office with AV soltuions by Viastak
So how do we build the foundations of an adaptable workplace – one that is prepared for the challenges of future commerce? One of the answers lies in making the right technological choices. Across the globe, growing enterprises are being driven by new, innovative technologies, some of which have already become second-nature to us. They have, in many ways, engulfed our lives outside work too. There are occasions when we discover the newest apps in our personal lives and later find that they have sneakily filtered through into our professional habits. It is little wonder that 78% of retailers are thus planning significant investment in mobile in 2017: social use of mobile is where we are discovering many of these new innovations.

Applications are specific to each individual business, and we cannot simply generalise about them here. What we can do, however, is talk about the crucial technical groundwork that underpins all the software choices your business can make. At first sight, they can seem like mere common sense. Delve a little deeper, however, and their nuances are uncovered; these are important decisions that every business needs to make.

Connectivity

This one may seem obvious: we all need the internet. It is at the heart of every modern enterprise, whether we use it for research, promotion or communication. Most of us, for that matter already have access to it in some shape or form. Yet connectivity is not a one-size-fits-all solution: it is crucial that offices are linked to the appropriate connectivity lines, bearing in mind the growth ambitions and projected evolution for the business.

Research from telephony provider Gamma indicates that business’ Number One priority regarding connectivity is nothing flashy or exuberant: they just want a better service. Better speeds, better coverage, better troubleshooting – and “no nasty surprises.” How many companies can empathise with that? What they need to understand is that different lines have different capacities. The standard ADSL (broadband) lines connected to all our houses, for example, simply will not do in a business of more than ten people; they cannot cope with any significant simultaneous spike in demand. Lines such as the EFM and Fibre, depending on your requirements, are vital if an office is to stay reliably connected for everyone and ensure that staff can cope with demand.

To choose the appropriate solution, you must assess:
– Your business’ current number of users
– Your business’ projected future number of users
– Projected usage of the network, according to the duties your employees perform
– What kind of devices will be linking up to the network

These factors have to be considered if your connectivity solution is going to be scalable and reliable.

Cloud Computing

The cloud desktop is a fundamental pillar of the future-proofed workplace, and is enjoying a meteoric rise. Businesses across the world are dispensing with the archaic comms rooms that took up so much space in their offices, and global cloud consumption is therefore predicted to rise from 31% in 2014, to 58% in 2018.

Storing data in the cloud is benefitting these businesses for a myriad of reasons. It is cost-effective because cloud providers work on pay-as-you-go contracts, never charging customers for more than they use. It provides reliable access by minimising network downtime, and any cloud provider worth their salt will have good technical service available at all times. It centralises information for all employees, which keeps everyone in the business singing from the same song sheet. Not to mention that by 2019, organisations worldwide are estimated to be delivering twice as many applications remotely as in 2015 – the cloud is spearheading truly modern business practices.

What makes the cloud most applicable to the future-proofed workplace, however, is its capacity to facilitate Agile Working initiatives. By storing all company data remotely, that data becomes accessible via any device, at any time, in any place with a Wi-Fi connection. That lifts employees psychologically by making their duties easier, and provides a strong platform to increase individual productivity and drive company growth. Staff can work anywhere in the office – or anywhere out of it, in accordance with a fresh, modern Agile Working and Bring-Your-Own-Device philosophy.

Audio-Visual Infrastructure

Never mind business, the centrepiece of virtually any successful endeavour in the world is interaction and collaboration. In business, the trouble is that effective interaction can become more difficult as a business grows, with employees, directors and shareholders likely to see less of each other as they travel more and more. This is especially true if the company starts adding more offices, and even more so if those offices are overseas.

Solving the issue has consequently become an important mission for businesses, and many are looking to solve it using technology. Corporate audio-visual infrastructure – an industry projected to grow to a worth of $114 billion in 2016 – is becoming increasingly popular as a means to counter this problem, with perfect interaction facilitated by the ability to communicate face-to-face. In addition, contemporary software allows users to simultaneously work on the same documents and see each other’s contributions, regardless of any geographical distance. A 2013 Cisco survey of young executives concluded that 87% believe video has a notable positive impact on an organisation, not only in terms of streamlining employees’ working habits, but also in attracting new talent and breaking down language barriers to work internationally.

With 50% of the world’s workforce now categorised as Gen Y or “millennial” – a figure predicted to rise to 63% by 2017 – the opinions of young executives are more important than ever. The audio-visual technology available on today’s market offers businesses a shining opportunity to modernise and grow on an international scale.

What Does The Future Hold?

As ever, a competitive economy – but one which is being increasingly driven by fresh technology. The key to success lies with identifying key trends in business practice, and adapting to them swiftly. Technology is facilitating greater scalability and flexibility in how companies can operate. The businesses who leverage the right technologies, in the right way, will be the ones firmly on course to a glittering, prosperous long-term future.

Staying or Going: How to Create a Successful Workplace Strategy

When it comes to workplace trends, it is imperative we don’t lose sight of the proven strategies that help organisations create workplaces which empower people, reduce costs and transform their businesses.

There is no single solution for workplaces, this is why it’s crucial to create a workplace strategy that works for your company. By merging your business goals with research and design, you place yourself in the best position to achieve your objectives.

Many of our clients have found that the best method of developing a sound strategy is dividing the concept of the workplace into its various components – that of People, Place, Process.
Staying or Going – How to Create a Successful Workplace StrategyA successful workplace strategy starts with a strong foundation and effective planning
People
Shrewd companies understand that a major priority in workplace transformations is to enhance the performance of their people. In a knowledge-work economy, people are the dynamo that keep organisations growing, improving and innovating.

Not surprisingly, an intelligent workplace strategy can be a powerful tool for supporting employee performance. And a subsequent benefit is that what typically supports performance and fosters productivity also enhances employee health and wellbeing.

The first step in creating this strategy is actively engaging with employees and encouraging staff feedback. This will assist you in discovering what currently works and the tools and methodologies you can implement to optimise performance and productivity.

-> Considerations
● What metrics do you currently use to measure performance? How can these be improved?
● What types of interaction and communication take place and how often?
● What is the main purpose of encouraging communication (e.g. improved collaboration, faster decision making etc)?
● What are the differences between individual and group productivity?
● What tools do staff currently use to communicate with each other?
● Where can communication be enhanced (e.g. with employees or external partners)?

Place
Gearing your workplace towards a location that meets your requirements; now and in the future, will be one of the most expensive decisions your company makes, so it is important to get it right the first time.

Distinguishing between the workplace (the building that houses your company) and the workspace (where the work is carried out) is a good place to start as each of these agencies have unique and particular values and influences.

It may help to consider your new workplace, not as simply office space, but as a communication tool where strategy, efficiency and value are the main drivers for a strong real estate investment.

Workplace
-> Considerations
● Is the building and local area consistent with the brand image you want to create?
● How close is the building to your suppliers?
● Are there local amenities close by for staff and clients?
● Are the businesses in the local area complementary or competing?
● Does the local area have potential employees? What is the local commute like?

Workspace
● How can the office design enhance productivity?
● Does the building layout fulfil your space requirements now? How much future growth do you anticipate?
● How does the new space enhance your company culture?
● What are the options to reduce the floor space per workstation?
● To what extent do cost savings inhibit staff satisfaction and productivity?
● What areas in the new space will you need to get the most out of your teams?

Process
Understanding how work activity and communication flows through your organisation is a key consideration for any successful workplace strategy. By examining your core business processes and how departments work and interact, you’ll be able to firstly identify current work practices and secondly, determine whether the future workspace supports or hinders these work styles.

Furthermore, analysing your processes will provide insight into the ‘bigger picture’ of the organisation, allowing you to streamline and improve any current departmental or operational objectives. Ultimately, this can expedite employee buy-in and minimise disruption when managing any future changes.

-> Considerations
● What activities do staff currently undertake? How can the new workspace enhance these tasks?
● What working practices and philosophies will you utilise in the new space?
● Does the new space work with a mobile workforce?
● What are the options to increase workstation utilisation (e.g. Agile Working models)?
● How will you measure the adoption and successful uptake of new working practices?

Technology
With advances in disruptive technology occurring so frequently, it can be difficult for companies to keep up – let alone anticipate what’s next. The influx of tech solutions can also make it difficult to decide what is essential to the business; what provides a competitive advantage and what may prove to be a poor investment. Fundamentally, the adoption of new technology is a question for the process section – evaluating whether the technology is the best tool for your business and developing a clear understanding on how it can effect change to make a valid return on your investment.

-> Considerations
● Does this technology increase productivity?
● Does the technology enable us to reach our goals more efficiently?
● Is this the best tool for the business? What are the alternatives?
● Will staff require assistance or training with the new technology?
● How will we measure the ROI?

Below are our 5 Steps to an Effective Workplace Strategy
1) Assess the company – Determine if your strategy aligns with business objectives and budgetary considerations.
2) Evaluate the company culture – Gain insight into your stakeholders with surveys, workshops and focus groups.
3) Calculate the risks involved – Partner with diffusive departments like Facilities, HR and IT to understand and manage the potential obstacles and risks associated with the strategy.
4) Create a business transformation strategy – Manage and communicate the future changes in your company by building awareness with stakeholders.
5) Establish a metrics tracker – Develop a measurement system that tracks progress against your goals and share the results.