Long before current events led to what CNN dubbed the "world's biggest work-from-home experiment," the trend towards more and remote work was already on a fast track. In fact, "work" and how we define it is changing radically thanks to technology. As organizations strive for better end-user experiences and positive business outcomes in planning for the future of work, I see three main areas to focus on:
1) Supporting a Distributed Workforce
More and more workers are finding the old 9 to 5 day office day a thing of the past because mobile devices and digital collaboration tools have broken down the line between work and personal time. The most recent annual International Workplace Group Workplace Study shows 50 percent of global employees work outside their office 2.5 days a week, and 80 percent would choose to work somewhere with flexible working arrangements over one without.
Because the "office" as we've known it for decades is changing so rapidly, organizations must have a solid strategy for supporting distributed workforces that need to contribute seamlessly from wherever they are. The challenge is to make sure everyone is connected and collaborating, that people aren't overlooked, and there's a recognition that everyone can contribute and make a difference. To this end, HR leaders will have to re-think their support role and become strategic partners in creating cultures that drive success.
A distributed workforce, virtual workers, and fully-remote organizations put tremendous pressure on IT leaders to make sure that workers can connect effortlessly with the apps and data they need. There are profound security challenges—especially when many want to use their own devices (BYOD). Updating and managing policies for regulating what actions and resources are accessed on which devices, and when, becomes increasingly complex. It becomes even more challenging when you consider both the business aspects of work-life fusion (e.g., corporate apps, corporate data) and the personal aspects (e.g., what personal data is stored where, when, and why).
2) Technology and Device Management at the Edge
Gartner says the "Empowered Edge" is one of its top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2020. While the direction for years was to move everything to the cloud, advances in edge computing mean there are significant speed and latency advantages to keeping data closer to where it's generated. There will be a wider distribution of devices, storage, and computational workloads as intelligence moves toward endpoints.
Much of that will be driven by the mountains of data generated by purpose-built IoT (Internet of Things) sensors. As more 5G wireless networks come online, the number of IoT devices is set to explode. Look for new use cases like better video collaboration and analytics, plus enhanced virtual and augmented reality tools.
That means there's a lot of technology at the edge that needs to be managed. There are more moving pieces, and you need a strategy for how to handle them. Some key considerations are:
- Can the technology be managed remotely?
- Is it plug-and-play, and if so, who's shipping it and shipping it back?
- Which tech will need a smart resource to configure, install, and maintain it?
3) What Are You Doing to Make a Difference?
Sustainability was the star of the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos as business leaders showed they're focused on cleaner, more sustainable solutions. It's a significant issue in the presidential campaign, too, as polling shows voters want to know where candidates stand on climate change.
Workers are increasingly conscious of how the organizations that employ them affect the planet and society with their actions. Themes like "giving back" and protecting the environment resonate with employees. The latest CNBC/SurveyMonkey Workplace Happiness Index found 69 percent of working Americans say it's "very important" to work for a company with clearly stated values.
As a corporate leader, I think a lot about what CompuCom does in the community and how we plan for sustainability. As a leader in remote work and collaboration solutions, we're engaged in finding the best alternative work models which help drive sustainability and lower environmental impacts. If teams are not commuting, that's a significant lowering of carbon footprints.
The Future of Work is Bright
While we can't predict all the ways that work will change in the future, current trends point to a highly-productive and distributed workforce where employees with top skills easily collaborate with the organizations that need them from wherever they are. Corporate leaders must focus on creating the right experiences to attract and keep the best talent. That includes aligning business models with core values and technology solutions that are simple yet drive powerful collaboration and sustainability.