We expose the most common myths about “the workplace of the future” and tell you how to create tomorrow’s workplace today!
Why it makes sense to think about tomorrow’s workplace today
Our world is undergoing rapid and continuous change. Globalisation is increasingly changing the way we work, particularly knowledge workers. People in post-industrial economies and economies lacking in raw materials owe their prosperity to their high standard of education, which is necessary for developing and producing complex products. This is exactly where Internet-based communication technologies can offer new and efficient ways to collaborate. Noticeable trends are the acceleration of work processes, globally dispersed teams and increased outsourcing of knowledge-intensive work.
This increasing globalisation offers many opportunities, but it also carries significant risks. Companies can draw from a larger, international pool of suitable employees, but are faced with the challenge of retaining highly qualified employees in the longterm. They will have to increasingly compete internationally with other companies for the most talented staff. Universities prepare their students for the global labour market and set international standards with Bachelors and Masters degrees. Coupled with a stronger focus on foreign languages, the world is at the feet of the educated elite.
Employers must therefore put a lot of thought into the much talked-about workplace of the future and start preparing start preparing today today, allowing better planning for the future, while largely avoiding risks.
We expose the most common myths about “the future of work” and start by giving you some recommendations which you can implement in your company right away – on your own or with the help of a consultant.
This white paper does not highlight all aspects of the workplace of the future; instead it focuses on the following questions: with the communication solutions available today, how can we communicate more easily and efficiently with colleagues, leaders and external business partners?
As a rule, we look at communication independently of location and time. And only companies that are able to communicate effectively will be able to be remain sustainably competitive in a global market and position themselves as attractive employers.
The Most Common Myths about the Future of Work
Myth 1: Email is dead
For many people, the working day has become a chore. Constant interruptions to tasks requiring concentration are increasingly affecting productivity. According to studies, typicalemail is a typical interruption to work. To counter this, some companies are drastically cutting back on emails. For example, Atos, a French IT services company, has launched a zero email initiative to eliminate internal email use across
Today, young people already tend to use email less. They prefer messaging services such as WhatsApp or mobile Facebook applications. But are these indicators applicable to the future work environment? Yes and no. “Yes” because the trend for collaboration is towards the virtual workspace where project members can meet and communicate asynchronously. An example of a tool used for this purpose is Citrix Podio, a flexible social collaboration platform. And “no,” email will not be rendered obsolete, as it will remain central to collaboration with customers, suppliers and business partners.
Social collaboration platforms such as Podio can be considered kind of a “Facebook for companies” and are used by a diverse range of corporate departments to manage their work, store documents and hold business discussions. Project teams can plan entire projects, record progress and results, assign each other tasks and discuss outstanding issues. All participants communicate via one central platform without writing
a single email.
Experts talk about a trend whereby communication is shifting from email to social media. Current research by McKinsey & Company has revealed that in the USA, email usage has decreased by 20 % from 2008 to 2012.
Myth 2: One communication method fits all
Proper use of email communication and social collaboration platforms will allow you to communicate more efficiently and more effectively, but these methods will probably not fulfil all your communication needs. To chart a sustainable communication future today, companies and employees need to collaborate using additional communication tools.
Online meeting solutions and video conferencing have been proven to be effective communication tools. Tools such as Citrix GoToMeeting complement regular meetings and significantly reduce travel times and costs. An important basis for this is an online meeting culture that is thoroughly integrated within the company.
An online meeting culture means creating a culture of collaboration. This culture is based on factors such as respect, trust and consideration. Creating this culture is a task for the management. Tools for better collaboration – such as online meetings or webinars – help to establish a collaborative culture, as they enable daily collaboration with employees, customers and business partners across distances in real time. They can communicate face to face with each other as if everyone were in the same room.
For this to succeed, it is important to select tools that are user-friendly, so they can be used as easily as the phone. Think about your phone: you just pick it up, dial a number and talk. If there were various complex functions and settings, you and your business partners would refrain from making calls unless absolutely necessary. The same principle applies to web-based communication tools. If you have to first read through a manual before holding an online meeting or a video conference, you have already chosen the wrong solution. Never assume that your colleagues or meeting partners will read the manual before the meeting.
If you want to address multiple people who work at several different locations, webinars are an ideal solution. The word “webinar” is a combination of “web” and “seminar.” There are many use cases for webinars. HR departments use them for nationwide company meetings or training sessions, sales and marketing departments use them for customer product training and presentations, and marketers for lead generation.
These examples show that there is no solution that fits all purposes. Ideally there should be several applications that are bundled together. For example, online meetings can start from a social collaboration platform. The advantage: all the participants can communicate with one another both synchronously and asynchronously. This way, participants collaborate through video conferencing and screen sharing, have access to all relevant files and can document tasks and progress.
Which tool for what?
Meetings or video conferencing between employees, business partners and customers
Here you need an online meeting or video conferencing solution such as Citrix GoToMeeting, which allows you to host online meetings and video conferences on a PC, Mac, smart phone or tablet. Participants can join a meeting via VoIP or telephone – whichever they prefer. Users can share their screen and applications with other participants, so they can hold presentations or collaborate on documents. You can also start a one-to-one or group video conference in HD quality with just a mouse click.
Customer events or employee and customer training
For events, you need a tool that enables you to easily reach hundreds of participants. Citrix GoToWebinar allows users to conduct online events for large audiences. These webinars can be held from any location. Key applications or use cases are lead generation for marketing and sales purposes, as well as hosting company-wide meetings.
Shared virtual meeting place for anytime collaboration
In addition to real-time communication through online meetings and video conferences, you should also provide a secure, shared meeting place for your team members and project groups to exchange ideas and information. With Citrix Podio, you can set up a shared virtual work environment, where employees can manage their workflows within workspaces. Social media-like functions allow users to post comments and messages, assign tasks and create file archives. If several workspace members are online at the same time, they can send instant messages to each other or engage in video chat.
Secure corporate file sharing
As well as maintaining communication and collaboration, it’s important be able to safely access and exchange company files. Citrix ShareFile allows distributed team members to access files from almost anywhere on any device, including mobile. Specifically designed for business, this file sharing, synchronisation and archiving tool includes powerful functions that allow administrators to set up custom access permissions, monitor file sharing activities and delete files remotely if a security violation occurs.
Myth 3: The home office is a thing of the past
Last year, Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo, recalled all home office workers back into their corporate offices. However, we feel that such black-and-white thinking needs to be critically questioned.
In Europe, the home office is a modern, task-oriented way of working, with the advantage that employees are demonstrably more productive and take less sick leave. Studies in North America have reported productivity increases of up to 40 %.
There is also a green side-effect that results from less travel as CO² emissions are reduced as well.
The correct introduction of workshifting is a step-by-step process. It involves identifying employees and checking requirements such as a suitable work environment - ideally a separate room - and a stable broadband connection. The main thing to bear in mind is that workshifting does not necessarily mean weeks of isolation and only working from home. Initially, it is generally sufficient to reserve one day a week for telecommuting, and then document and analyse the effects.
Myth 4: The right work-life balance will solve all problems
To ensure that their employees will have a good work-life balance, global car manufacturer, Volkswagen, decided that emails an additional only be forwarded to company BlackBerrys during a shift and for 30 minutes at either end. Only senior managers are excluded from this regulation. If you ask psychologists, they will most likely tell you that such measures are an erroneous concept. You cannot just separate life and work, as this separation would devalue work. It would mean that work is merely an activity to earn money and not to make you happy. This may apply to working on an assembly line, and will be hard to change. But for most knowledge workers, work is an important part of life. Thoughts cannot be turned on and off depending on the time
of the day.
Instead of constantly talking about work-life balance, everyone needs to maintain an inner balance and listen to the body’s signals. That includes enjoying work and the right balance of focused activity and spare time.
Myth 5: Leading remote teams is no different from leading local teams
From our observations, we feel that many leaders are not managing their telecommuting employees effectively because they never learnt how to lead remote teams. There are also not enough professional training opportunities in this area, and if they exist, not many medium-sized businesses take advantage of them.
Managing employees who are working from home or travel frequently means that managers must communicate their goals and expectations clearly and precisely. Annual or quarterly target agreements and monthly – or even weekly – personal reviews should be a matter of course.
Both management and employees must build a culture of mutual trust, be aware of their tasks and responsibilities and work towards common goals.
Myth 6: The individual office space is becoming less important
Looking at newly designed offices, we have noticed that workplaces have become more colourful, brighter and much more modern. Status symbols such as the individual office space seem to ha ve become less important. The modern office has different areas where people can work together, often desks are no longer assigned to specific employees, and the most creative ideas arise in places where people meet.
But this type of flexibility is not suitable for all areas of a business. For example, people working in accounting, receptionists and many employees who can’t work from a home office still need a fixed workstation in the office. Also, there are still many people who simply don’t perform well with a flexible office space. That’s why it is important to conduct a detailed analysis and offer employees the work environment that suits
Myth 7: Good IT solutions are multi-functional
Today, collaboration solutions are continuously being expanded to include an abundance of new features that most users will never need. Some of these functions don’t increase productivity, but will have the opposite effect. Few providers have managed to make IT management easier and limit the functions to the essential.
In a work environment, it is critical to choose communication solutions that are easy to use. Only then will the solutions get accepted and used, and the anticipated productivity benefits of these systems realised.
Much Sought-After: Generation Y
The competition for highly-qualified young employees is intensifying. Companies are no longer just be competing for sales – they’re competing even more fiercely for suitable employees.
The people of generation Y – who were teenagers around the year 2000 – have different value expectations: A career is not the main focus in their lives, they have less loyalty towards their employers and material things rank lower on their list of priorities.
Family and friends, on the other hand, increase in importance. Members of Generation Y are globally oriented, act with self-confidence and prefer performance-oriented compensation models.
In addition, Generation Y grew up with the Internet and information technology. Businesses can make use of this by the much sought-after, Generation Y-appropriate, web-based tools for collaboration. In so doing, they can provide a more flexible work environment, both in terms of their choice of workplace and working hours.
The Bottom Line and Recommendations
The workplace of the future has many different aspects, and we recommend tackling that project in small steps - without losing sight of the whole. It is important to take individual circumstances into account, and include both leadership and employees
in the discussion.
With regard to communication and its new forms, we recommend the following process:
- Taking stock: analyse the determining factors in conjunction with internal and external communication means and processes.
- Create a list of expected changes within the company over the next three years.
- Working with both leadership and employees, define a target strategy as well as precise key performance indicators (KPIs).
- Select the appropriate communication solutions, with stability, security, support and user friendliness at the centre of your considerations, or better, as your central considerations.
- During the initial implementation stages, use one-to-one coaching for managers, and online training for employees. Form groups with “generational diversity” – a mix of older and younger employees.
- Establish a sustainable online communication culture across the company.
Important: Management must lead the way in this process.
- Implement a company policy for home-working.
- Analyse the target/actual deviations for all KPIs and initiate a continuous improvement process.
At first sight, the challenges may appear substantial . But over the long term, the goal is to find new and more effective ways to collaborate, both internally and with customers and business partners. Instead of calling or emailing a multitude of people, just hold an online meeting. This way collaboration won’t be perceived as inconvenient or complicated, but as beneficial.
About the author
Daniel Holzinger has some 20 years’ experience in the information technology sector. He has held international management positions in sales, marketing, public relations, partner management and business development. In addition, for many years he was lecturer for marketing and sales management at the FHWien University of Applied Sciences for Management and Communication, Vienna. More recently, at Netviewer/ Citrix, the Colited founder has been acting as Managing Director for Austria, and internationally as Vice President for webinar strategies.
Colited was founded by Daniel Holzinger in 2011. The company helps corporations to develop and implement online collaboration and workplace flexibility (workshifting) strategies. By optimising internal and external communication processes and making collaboration more flexible, increased productivity and job satisfaction can be achieved, together with decreased costs. For more information about Colited, please visit www.colited.com
Discover a wealth of informative and insightful content on this and related topics
at our blog: blog.gotomeeting.com
Online meetings and video conferences made easy.
Host virtual events for up to 1,000 attendees.
Our online service for better online training.