The future of work is not a technical conversation, and it is not necessarily technologically-driven either. The future of work is more of an ideation that is brought on by a behavioural shift in the workplace.

So how does society want to work, where do we want to work, when do we want to work, and how do we remain connected?

In this blog, we’ll provide insight into the many changes we’re seeing in the modern workforce, what is driving these changes, what the future of digital workspaces should look like, and how you can prepare.

Where is the workforce today and how did we get there?

From our career choices, to the offices we work in, and even the companies we’ve chosen to work for, work has evolved significantly over the past few years. One of the main drivers of this change is digitization, which can be seen through the evolution of big data. A few years ago there was a lot of talk around big data being the “new oil”, however the best we got out of data back then was power BI. Now big data has laid the groundwork for artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Similarly, the introduction of BYOD and VPN has laid the groundwork for employees to be able to work remotely.

With the enablement of employees to work remotely, we have continued to see a growing shift in the modern workplace such as:

  • More people working from home
  • 72% of employees will be working remotely by 2020 at least one day a week
  • 56% of meetings have at least one remote attendee
  • 30% of meetings are completely virtual in nature
  • 38% of remote attendees join via mobile

These shifts are the driving factors towards companies equipping more of their meeting rooms with video, adopting team-based communication hubs like WebEx Teams, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and RingCentral, migrating their communication workloads and introducing huddle spaces and remote support. Meeting locations are no longer just physical, and the future of workspaces needs to accommodate this.

There are many reasons for this change in habits, the first being Generation Z entering the workforce. Gen-Z was born into the internet boom and collectively have spent a larger part of their lives connecting with remote peers over various social media platforms and they expect this to continue into their workplace. They work more collaboratively than any generation before them, and organizations need to use this to their advantage. Other reasons for the change include a growing team-based approach to project delivery which has made way for team-based communication apps, improved work-life balance, increases in remote work opportunities, mobility and device proliferation, fast and reliable internet access such as 5G, modern meeting experiences like whiteboarding features, increased adoption of BOTS and virtual assistants and lastly, AI and machine learning.

The future of work affects every level of the organization differently. For instance, the CIO will be tasked with driving innovation, the CPO will be tasked with connecting with good candidates and ensuring the best are retained, the CTO will be tasked with ensuring the best technologies are in place and the IT manager will oversee making the C-level vision a reality.

 Given this, there are several options to consider when planning your digital workspace:

  1. Personal space: A personal space can exist anywhere, and it could be a private office, cubicle, open workspace or home office. A personal workspace should be equipped with desk phones, wireless and noise cancelling headsets, video-enabled monitors, web cams, etc. to enable you to join a meeting, place a phone call and collaborate with colleagues in real time. The objective with personal space technology is to ensure all technology is good enough that when remote attendees are joining the personal workspace, they have the same experience as if they were meeting in person.
  2. Mobile Workspace: A mobile workspace can exist anywhere from a coffee shop, the airport, or your kids’ hockey game. Remote workers are not excused from everyday work requirements or meetings so you will need to ensure they have the proper technology to conduct their jobs successfully. The mobile workspace typically includes your laptop, head phones or head seats with noise-cancelling capabilities, mobile phones and mobile device management and security. Employees should have the ability to continue conversations on apps with video conference capabilities.  
  3. Shared collaboration space: Employees of the future are not necessarily meeting in traditional meeting rooms, and collaboration spaces leverage open spaces for quick collaboration whilst sharing wirelessly from their PCs or mobile devices to a white board. In addition to whiteboard technology, boundary microphones can be leveraged to cancel out noise from outside the collaboration space, much like noise cancelling head phones.
  4. Huddle rooms: According to Frost Sullivan, by 2023 73% of meeting rooms will be huddle rooms. These rooms reflect an evolving working culture which prizes flexibility, open knowledge, sharing, collaboration and innovation. It represents a less formal meeting culture that isn’t time bound, with collaborative white boarding and an instantaneous nature.
  5. Large conference rooms: Boardrooms are gradually fading away, but they remain an integral part of the workplace. The modern-day boardroom is fully equipped with digital capabilities such as meeting assistants that significantly reduce the time it takes to start or join a meeting, meeting applications like WebEx, Microsoft Teams and Zoom that allow you to join or start a meeting with a single click and artificial intelligence. AI is a key component of the modern day meeting room and provides the capability to easily detect unwanted noise and suppress them (such as dogs or HVAC sounds in the background), room analytics that help the facility understand how the room is being used during each meeting, whiteboarding capabilities and the introduction of voice commands to further enhance the meeting experience.
  6. Remote support: Though this is not a workspace, remote support is an integral part of what makes the future of work successful. By leveraging technologies like augmented and virtual reality, a remote expert can guide an onsite technician to fix issues from miles away. TeamViewer Pilot is a solution that leverages this technology to help remote experts solve problems as if they were in person, and cam be viewed in action in this video. A second use for remote support is in financial services. With this technology a financial expert could be anywhere in the world and with a single click of a button, they can provide their expertise to customers sitting 9,000 miles away. Cisco, for example, allows you to modify the interface of its video endpoints so that from a single click, you get connected with a remote expert.

What architecture do we need today to prepare us for the future?

There are a few pieces of architecture that need to be put in place for organizations to be successful. For instance, most of the workload required for workplace collaboration are increasingly transitioning to the cloud with fewer foot prints on-premise. Several providers such as RingCentral, Cisco, Microsoft and 8X8 have developed platforms with rich capabilities that would support the modern-day enterprise calling requirements. If you are wondering how to move your enterprise phone system to the cloud with as little down time as possible, the answer is hybrid cloud. AWS, Office365 and Azure all have hybrid cloud architecture options.

Additionally, most meetings today are in the cloud and most organizations are moving away from audioconferencing to include video in their meetings. To successfully implement this, you will need a cloud video, web and audio-conferencing provider that will provide you with the scalable services to accommodate your meeting needs. Some of these services include meeting assistant integrations such as text to speech technology and integrations that will take notes and translate for you during your meeting or will remember key words from the meeting to complete functions like check your calendar to book a follow up meeting. Some other services include meeting room bots which will manage surveys about meeting room experiences, room management integrations that will provide insights into how rooms are being used and file share capabilities.

The third architecture requirement is instant messaging. Most of the apps discussed throughout this blog provide you with a single application that integrates your entire workflow such as calling, meeting, messaging and share. One example of the benefit of instant messaging is for project management. For instance, if you have a new team member on a project you can add them to the project Slack channel, and they will be able to quickly get up to speed on past conversations and files relating to the project. Another benefit is that when one team member leaves a project, the history is still maintained and managed by the company.

The last requirement is manageability. You will need a single pane of glass to manage your workload and ensure it is accessible anytime, anywhere and on any device.

Now, we’ve discussed the drivers of this shift in workforce, the ideal digital workspace and the architecture required by organizations to make it happen. Though there are many benefits to this shift, there are some challenges posed by the evolution of work such as security and data privacy, data residency, adoption, and skill set. To ensure your solution is secure you will need to encrypt your data both at the source and at the destination. You can get this encryption key from your technology service provider. Another security concern is the possibility of a stolen device, and the ability to wipe the devices quickly. The challenge with data residency will be ensuring all data stays in Canada, as required by provincial laws. Though only a few provinces have data residency legislation in place, such as BC and Nova Scotia restricting all public sector data, and Ontario restricting healthcare, many public sector institutions have voluntarily implemented these practices in preparation for future legislation in their regions. Data residency is more of a consideration for public sector institutions, however some private sector enterprises may implement this as well. In terms of adoption, the challenge your IT manager will face and need to plan for is how end users are introduced to the technology, and how thoroughly they are trained and onboarded onto their new digital workplace platform. For your transformation to be successful, you will need to ensure your end users have the proper skill set or training available in order to leverage the technology properly and fully. 

If you are interested in learning more or transforming your workspace, CDW has a top bench of talent that can help you assess, deploy and manage your new workspaces. Contact one of our experts today.

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