Employees looking for ‘smart’ workplaces

Dell and Intel study offers glimpses of future world of work and impact of technology
By Liz Bernier
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 08/08/2016

It’s interesting to speculate what the workforce will look like in a few years — but one safe bet is employees will expect better, smarter and more mobile technology from employers, according to Dell and Intel’s Future Workforce Study. 

More than 50 per cent of employees expect to be working in a “smart office” — meaning a more interconnected, agile workforce — in the next five years, found the survey of 3,801 respondents across 10 countries. 

And employers need to start preparing for those changes — particularly since 82 per cent of millennials said workplace tech would have an influence when they’re deciding to take a job. 

 “(It’s about) thinking what that future looks like and saying, ‘Are we smart enough today,  and what does smart office really mean?’” said Julie Coppernoll McGee, vice-president of global marketing and communications at Intel in Portland, Ore., during a webcast.

“(It could mean) technology that’s rich and secure and enables collaboration and improves productivity, but we also see a link in increased enjoyment of their job. Things like smart and connected conference rooms, making it easier for people to connect and collaborate and interacting through things like touch and voice as well (as) guide our thinking.”

The survey reinforced that the advent of smart offices is quickly approaching, she said. 

“It also shows this greater influence on how employees choose their employer, and thinking about that in terms of the way that you deliver technology — especially when you think about millennials, those digital natives that were really raised on technology and expect it in the workplace,” she said. 

“Compared to technology that people use in their personal lives and seeing how that influences the workforce… workers are choosing employers more and more on the (basis) of technology. And businesses need to pay more attention to the tools.”

Another aspect of note is security, said McGee.

“It’s certainly an important part of thinking about the changing workforce and it has enormous implications for businesses going forward when they think about having a more mobile and modern workforce,” she said. 

“Employees that can connect and collaborate on the go (could be) putting their data and their businesses at risk.” 

As a result, people need to think about things such as multi-step verification to help future-proof and protect information, said McGee.

Tipping point
The global workforce is at a tipping point, according Kevin Shkolnik, vice-president at market research firm Penn Schoen Berland (PSB) in Washington, DC., during the webcast.

“What do we mean by that? There’s really two trends. One is the incredible advancement in communications technology… and second is both what that is enabling and what is driving demand for these technologies,” he said. 

“Employees are not the same — the typical nine-to-five office space is really not what we see anymore. So what we mean by a tipping point is that perceptions and expectations about where people want to be working, where they should be working and the capabilities in the workforce and the technology within the workforce don’t necessarily match where we are today. But people do expect to get there in the very near future.

“So… when we ask questions about ‘Do you think that you’ll be working in a smart workplace in the next five years?’… you have more than half — 57 per cent — saying yes. And this isn’t in 25 or 30 years, this is in the next five years.”

Similarly, just over 51 per cent of respondents said new communications technology will make face-to-face communication obsolete, said Shkolnik. 

“The perception of where we’re headed is really striking, and it’s very different from where we are today,” he said. 

“What is today’s workforce? People are generally happy; it’s not like employees are banging down the door to change. However, they’re starting some lifestyle changes — maybe they’re working more remotely.”

And the line between being in a physical office and being at work is blurring, as is the separation between personal life and career life, said Shkolnik. 

“It’s very muddled now,” he said. “Yet today, people are still using what they’ve done traditionally. So, for instance, desktops are still used more than laptops or tablets, landlines are still used more than smartphones. But things are changing.
“Today’s workspaces and workforces are not there yet — but they’re fast approaching.”

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