Recently I posted a question on LinkedIn asking people: what they thought the workplace would look like in 5 to 10 years time. My reason was extremely selfish, as it is a question that I have to ask myself quite a lot in my line of work, and thought I would make my life easier by getting other people to answer it for me. For 2 days I waited and waited. Nothing!
Then slowly but surely people started to respond and a week or so later there are 20 comments from people all over the world giving their personal vision of the future of their workplaces. And as I don’t want to be selfish any longer, I want to share some main points raised, and my conclusion with you.
Mobility & flexibility
Almost all the comments to some degree or other touched on mobility being a major influencing factor in the future. Organisations need to embrace mobility and provide their staff with the tools not only to access data but to interact with it wherever they may be (and across multiple devices!).
I was fully expecting this, as it is the single most talked about topic in my conversations with clients. How can we become more collaborative? How can we crowd-source more effectively? Ideation and gamifaction are of course always darting in and out of this conversation, but the reality is that organisations need to stop pretending they are collaborating and really provide substantial tools (and culture!) that enable effective and meaningful collaboration.
I loved this expression, as it immediately conjures up visions of what that would look like. The conversation around this went well beyond hot-desking or open spaced offices. As Joyce put it: imagine a big open space with clusters around projects and the ability to join in the various clusters that are relevant to you. Picture leaders walking around this big space and almost indistinguishable for the other participants.
A bit too far out? No!… That is what social intranets or ESN are all about! The technology is real and it is here accessible to all.
Bringing order to chaos
Another point made was around environments that have less noise, and are less chaotic. I interpret this to mean that information is easy to find. Relevant conversations and content are easily identifiable. Relevant people stand out from the crowd. The mad rush to find content is over. The confusion about who reports to who and who is involved in what are things from the past. Bliss.
BYOD (Bring your own device)
Not longer than ten years ago, we used to go to work because that is where we had access to (fast) internet connections, the latest computer and some of us were given mobile phones we didn’t need to pay for. Those were perks. Fast forward to today, and the reality is totally inverse. Our personal mobile phone is the latest smartphone on an ‘all you can eat’ data and call package. It is sync’ed with our iPad (or tablet), giving us access to all our songs, photos and other content in a totally seamless way. We have a stylish thin laptop or a top of the range, faster than lighting PC. At work? We are lucky if we get a Dell Latitude laptop and a poxy 3G iPhone.
What does that mean? It means that there is a massive disconnect between our expectations of user-experience and tools that we are expected to work with. Companies will have to focus on improving the user-experience and move away from “they should be happy they are getting a phone” to providing the employees with tools that at least match what they have in their personal lives. Or they will have to accept “bring our own”, and iron out any security issues that may imply.
Reading the above and the response on the Linkedin page, one thing becomes clear to me: we are shaping our own workplace. The balance of power is shifting and employers are having to play catch up to our demands.We share our private lives (FB, Twitter, etc.) – so businesses have to provide platforms that allow us to share (collaborate) our working lives.
We have cool toys – businesses will have to provide us with cool toys or accept that we will bring our own to work.
We value our time – businesses are going to have to provide more flexibility and the ability to work any time anywhere, or we will look for other places to work.
The workplace is no longer feudal (dedicated top down), nor is it a democracy (lets all work it out together).
The workplace is an i-mocracy – I decide!
Thank you the all the participants of the LinkedIn discussion: Stephen Russell, Sumit Roy, Linda Bjork, Bala Subra, Stephen Russell, Piyush Mangal, Ivan Isaacs, Matthew Aiken, Mikko Malmivaara, Randy Herbertson, Catherine Zang, MBA, Joyce Wilson-Sanford