How technology is changing the landscape of workplaces and workforces.
There is no question that the working world is constantly evolving and adapting to modern life. Since the first industrial revolution in the 18th century, which saw the advent of machines for mass production, the way we work has been continually advancing. The age of the internet and computers began in the late 20th century, bringing a further shift towards automation and digitalization.
Now with what has been deemed the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, cloud computing, machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), and Internet of Things (IoT), further blur the lines between physical, digital, and biological domains.
We have started to see the impact of these technologies in the workplace, but looking ahead to the future, how could they be further integrated into our day-to-day working environment?
Evolution of the hybrid workplace:
The Covid-19 pandemic was a catalyst for one of the biggest shifts seen in the labour market in recent history, as companies had no option but to adapt to a remote working environment if they wanted to stay operational during strict global lockdowns.
Now, more than three years later, more companies than ever look set to make remote and hybrid working environments a permanent fixture according to Scoop. The latest Flex report for Q2 2023 found that 51% of companies offer work location flexibility, up from 43% in Q1.
Challenges of Remote Working:
Despite the popularity of remote and hybrid working, it is not without its challenges. Some of the biggest obstacles faced by companies incorporating remote working into their working environment include:
- Collaboration and communication
In the absence of face-to-face interactions, businesses can face difficulties in ensuring effective communication and collaboration among colleagues and teams. The absence of non-verbal cues can result in misunderstanding and miscommunication which can lead to an absence of trust amongst employees.
In order to complete there work efficiently remotely, employees need to have access to the right technology. Not having the right telecommunications solutions can hinder a team’s productivity.
IT teams also need to be able to access and manage devices remotely in order to provide quick and efficient support for their employees.
Security is a major concern for all businesses, especially when implementing a remote workforce. There is a greater threat of data breaches if employees are using personal devices, as employees who use the same device for both personal and professional use may not have adequate back-up and recovery options.
How to create a hybrid work environment with the right technology:
- Invest in collaboration software
Whether your team is fully remote or hybrid, they need access to the right resources in order to be able to work efficiently. Cloud-based business applications allow your employees to communicate and collaborate with ease.
Additionally, the right telecommunications solutions play a large role in providing a face-to-face experience irrespective of where they are based. They are vital for business efficiency. Streamlining communication processes empowers employees to act faster, facilitates decision making and improves business efficiency.
- Provide the right hardware
Choosing the right hardware that can keep pace with your business needs is pivotal to enabling efficient collaboration and innovation, particularly as more companies are embracing a “work from anywhere” mindset.
In order to maintain a high level of security, businesses need to provide their employees with modern, trusted devices that are solely for professional use, to avoid a potential data breach. Using devices for both personal and professional tasks can increase cybersecurity threats.
- Make cybersecurity a priority
Having a remote workforce expands your attack surface and therefore increases the risk of cyberattacks, but keeping cybersecurity at the forefront of your digital transformation strategy can keep your business safe.
Employees should use company issued devices which have been protected with the latest anti-malware protection, using multi-factor authentication to verify their identities when logging in. Implementing these measures alongside steps such as virtual private networks will enhance your company’s security.
AI advancements in the workplace
Last month’s Knowledge Exchange focused on how AI is evolving - for better or for worse. But how will it affect workplaces and the more pertinent question on everyone’s lips – will it be used to replace a large part of the workforce?
Chairman and CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, described the next generation of AI as “moving from autopilot to copilot” in terms of how we can incorporate AI into our work processes. AI is already second nature to most digital experiences and from automation to job creation, its effects are quickly being felt across the workforce.
- Automation and augmentation of tasks:
Generative AI will disrupt working patterns as we know them but will also add a new dimension of human/machine collaboration to the workplace. Large Language Models (LLMs) such as ChatGPT will impact 40% of working hours across industries according to Accenture.
Companies such as Google and Microsoft have started to integrate generative AI technology including LLMs into their workspace software allowing users to maximise the potential of business applications and enhance their work processes.
- Job displacement:
Due to the automation potential of AI, certain jobs will decline in the coming years as AI replaces the need for humans to complete repetitive, manual tasks such as data entry and admin. While many individual tasks can be automated, it is hard to predict precisely how many jobs will be lost due to AI. Research shows anything from 9 – 47% of jobs.
The World Economic Forum predicts that the top five jobs that will face a decline in the coming five years are Bank Tellers, Postal Service Clerks, Cashiers, Data Entry Clerks and Administrative Secretaries.
- Job creation:
While there are worries about job displacement, AI also brings opportunities for job creation. This era of AI will invoke a shift in the skills required of the workforce. In particular there will be a demand for advanced technological skills such as programming, data analytics, and machine learning science.
The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2025, the shift in the labour market will result in 85 million jobs, but this will be offset by the creation of 97 million new positions. However, the workforce will need to have an open mind to upskilling and reskilling.
Since the industrial revolution, technology has always been there alongside a human workforce to streamline processes and make them more efficient. AI has powered online experiences for years, and there will be no exception in how it will increasingly power the workplace.
Although many hybrid and remote workplaces were set up practically over night following mandated lockdowns due to Covid-19, companies continue to embrace remote working environments with the help of technology.
Despite the skepticism over job losses caused by AI, it is poised to create more jobs than it will automate. In order to embrace these opportunities, the workforce will be required to upskill or reskill as an investment in their future.
Technology has revolutionized how we work since the Industrial Revolution and now with robust digital transformation strategies and technologies such as generative AI, workplaces will continue evolve, no longer relying on physical offices and becoming ever more digitalized and automated.