The new commercial imperative: the agile workplace.

November 19, 2018    Ann Clarke     ,

Agility reflects business zeitgeist of our age; leaders regularly talk about its importance and employees are actively seeking it out. The biggest enabler of this empowered age of freedom is technology, and as new applications and capabilities abound, business leaders must keep pace with the changing components of workplace agility.

Agile working means we have to rethink the working environment. It puts an end to the idea that work is where you go and instead defines it as an activity, something that we’re already seeing come through with workplace designs centered on user choice and activity-based work settings. However, true agile working is far more than looking at how or where individual tasks are performed and requires a much more holistic view of a business’s operations, performance and the people within it.

Today, business agility relies on workplace environments with the requisite infrastructure, physical and digital, to let their employees thrive. A strong understanding of the new technologies that are making this possible and driving workplace change underpins successful agile working.

Here are the top six new technologies that are driving new ways of working:

Machine Learning / Artificial Intelligence

The ability for computers and apps to learn from data has transformative potential for the workplace, removing the need for people-hours to be spent on mundane, time-intensive and often deskbound jobs. Thanks to machine learning algorithms that can respond to basic enquiries, Virtual Personal Assistants (think Siri and Alexa) will soon become familiar at work, improving the transfer of information in the workplace and automating basic tasks, which in turns helps to better manage people and place.

The Cloud

Although not the newest of technologies, many businesses are yet to embrace the Cloud. The Cloud has shifted IT from a sizeable CapEx consideration to a more manageable OpEx cost, and as a result is speeding up new technology roll-out and innovation for companies of all sizes. Whether it’s mobility within the office or working from any location in the world, it is the Cloud that delivers the easy access to systems, servers and consistent user experience that underpins modern workplace agility.

 Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence is expected to remove 30% of workers’ main activities by automating routine tasks, which frees up manpower for greater endeavour and allows organisations to re-skill employees in higher-value, rather than low-level, processing or administrative tasks.

Augmented Reality (AR)

Augmented reality can streamline working processes, create immersive experiences and vastly improve communication, with a particular focus on meeting, learning and collaboration. Interactive client presentations, immersive guides to help staff learn new skills and participation in remote meetings as a virtual presence are all possible. In particular, AR could change the experience of remote workers and geographically split teams by giving them new ways to come together, collaborate and learn.

Internet of Things (IoT)

Already at work in some of the world’s smartest office buildings, IoT technology is making environments better support productivity and wellbeing and improve how real estate and space is managed. Printers know when they need to reorder ink; air conditioning and lighting detects employees’ individual preferences; and scanners transfer text to computer in record time. The internet of things is making our environments more responsive and intuitive.

Ambient Intelligence

Ambient technology uses IoT as its infrastructure and has the potential to ensure the most effective use of workplace space and facilities. This technology calls on sensors and intelligent systems to deliver personalised services in anticipation of users’ needs. By monitoring the presence of people and recognising their identities and context, ambient intelligence can anticipate needs and allocate resources and spaces accordingly.

When committed to fully, and taken beyond the realms of flexible working, agility puts the focus on the ultimate end game of productivity, profitability, client satisfaction and staff retention. With changing societal expectations, this is particularly important. In a fiercely competitive, always-on age, customers want things faster and cheaper. Employees want to work for good employers and expect stimulating, tech-rich and collaborative work experiences as a matter of course.

With change providing the one constant in business, it should come as no great surprise that agility is the new order of the day. It is the businesses that recognise technology’s potential, engrain it in their business ethos and cater for it in well-designed, tech-rich, and collaborative work environments that will thrive in the agile age.

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