Tech has changed the way we live. We connect to others differently—a social media ‘friend’ or ‘contact’ may well be someone we’ve never met—and we live differently, too: with a few taps of the smartphone, we may find ourselves climbing into a stranger’s car, or arranging to sleep in a stranger’s bed for a couple of nights.
Would that strike you as normal even ten or fifteen years ago? What we deem to be normal has itself changed. And so it follows that the workplace, where we spend the bulk of our adult lives, will have changed as well.
The new teamwork
Tech has moved on at such speed that we no longer consider Internet messaging, let alone email, something revolutionary, even if the time for which people have used them is a blink of an eye in human history. But these, as well as more recent additions such as video calling and advanced communication apps such as Slack, have changed the workplace dramatically. Work in teams can be done remotely, at long distances and at different times.
Through Slack and similar apps, messages can be sent and files can be shared in one place, and a range of other technologies can be integrated, including time-management and ‘to-do list’ apps such as Trello. Once, not very long ago, meetings would have to be arranged at a time that was convenient for everyone, all would have to attend in person and notes or minutes would have to be taken by hand. Now, even a smartphone serves as a good recording device.
A more efficient workplace
A better and more flexible form of teamwork means greater efficiency. Tech has streamlined operational processes, which makes individuals more productive and frees entrepreneurs and senior managers from the shackles of practical considerations, so they can think creatively about how to improve their business and better serve their customers.
Counting Up and Charlie HR effectively outsource time-intensive but essential tasks to sophisticated technology, and this creates a more productive and more creative workplace in which individuals can focus on their most important functions. Local Motion, Zipcar’s pioneering cloud-based system, gives fleet managers in businesses total control over every vehicle, allowing them to authorise employee use as and when with a tap, and use GPS tracking to monitor where each car is. A more efficient business means a happier workplace, and one in which new ideas are more often generated and trialled.
Inside existing business, tech is transforming the workplace. But it’s also creating new workplaces in the form of shared working spaces. WeWork, The Office Group and a handful of other organisations are sprouting like weeds across major cities, but such a phenomenon wouldn’t be possible without technology.
With cloud services, collaborative software and a range of apps and devices, individuals can choose how and when they work according to their motivation, energy and schedule. This has hugely positive implications for employee engagement and satisfaction, which increases productivity and drives business growth. Indeed, even giant companies with existing employee benefits like PwC have changed their flexible working policy, citing benefits to recruitment, retention and employee happiness and productivity.
In the office workplaces of the future, individuals may come in and out, change desks or use a personal computer. But it’s also possible that tech may effectively ‘eliminate’ some workspaces: business-owners may decide they could save money in rented space and software subscriptions while improving productivity by introducing a wholesale remote working policy.
Just as the ways in which we communicate, travel, order food, manage money and do numerous other everyday activities have changed, so too has the way we work, and so too have the places in which we work. And given the importance of work, which has ruled our lives for centuries, we can expect further changes to come. We may not have reached John Maynard Keynes’ ‘age of leisure and abundance’, in which work no longer plays a major role in our lives, but what seems certain is that, with better tools for communication, time-management and menial tasks, and with greater independence given to employees, we can quietly look forward to happier, more creative, more productive workplaces.