Reimagining the workplace

As the world steps up its efforts to accelerate the adoption of collaboration tools and technology, Network Middle East, in association with Microsoft, explores what the reimagined workplace will look like

Collaboration, Remote work, Work from home, Microsoft, Microsoft Teams, Business communication, Digital transformation

The tools for creating an efficient remote workplace that is not bound by brick-and-mortar are already here. But is the availability of technology enough to encourage creativity among individuals, improve performance and boost productivity? What are the measures necessary to quantify this output into tangible results for the organisation?

Technology is a facilitator. It has enabled professionals to collaborate and communicate remotely, allowing them to complete tasks faster and more efficiently. But it is not just technology that has advanced; the workplace environment has also evolved.

In just a few decades, the workforce has evolved and transitioned towards a flexible working style, allowing organisations and individuals to benefit from advances in workplace collaboration tools and technology. The digital era has thus given rise to the distributed workforce that has long broken the traditional centralised office paradigm.

Until recently, industry analysts claimed that organisations in the Middle East faced challenges in enabling the remote workforce as working from the office has been the norm in several key sectors. However, advances in technology have allowed most organisations to quickly remedy this and provide employees with the flexibility, tools and resources they need to become more engaged and productive. Digitalisation has transformed the way work is done, acting as the catalyst that drove organisations around the globe to accelerate the adoption of collaboration technology and allow employees to work from home.

This workplace transformation has been happening for quite some time. Communication and collaboration technologies have been the backbone of businesses as the modern workplace continued to evolve throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.

Further, most individuals are already familiar with the basic tools for networking, document sharing, chat, web conferencing, content co-creation, site and content management and enterprise social networks. What this sudden surge in demand for remote collaboration has accentuated is how organisations that had already implemented the right collaborative technology experienced relatively less disruption.

Working towards the same goal

The evolution of digital technologies that enabled business communication started with email. The digital revolution in the mid twentieth century spurred the emergence of the information age and has paved the way for more efficient and effective ways of getting work done.

Over the past few decades, technology capabilities and collaboration tools have come a long way in broadening the ability to communicate and make employees more productive. As the digital landscape became more elaborate and sophisticated, the solely on-premise IT infrastructure was supported by advanced cloud computing options.

Consequently, the digital workplace has expanded to include tools that support existing processes and workflows in a more automated, efficient way. Such tools add flexibility and mobility to accommodate remote work and globally distributed teams.

Collaboration is very important, especially in a workplace where different people come together and work as one towards the same goal. What has changed over the years is how we collaborate.

Team collaboration apps can provide organisations with the tools they need to support remote work management and engagement. While collaboration technology has advanced leaps and bounds to improve employee experience, boosting user productivity and engagement, research indicates that employees typically use a mere 10 per cent of the functionality of any enterprise application, which is neither efficient nor conducive to productivity.

The remote working trend is accelerating in the modern workforce, which is eager to adopt a centralised tool or platform to ensure business continuity and maintain a better work-life balance. Although there’s a crowded field of digital solutions available, organisations need to think critically to choose a comprehensive collaboration tool that suits their workflow and purpose.

After the organisation has crafted a work-from-home strategy, it is essential to evaluate and translate this into tangible outcomes. Essentially, employee performance will be determined by outcomes and whether an employee is meeting measurable benchmarks or goals. An approach that is independent of the hours clocked-in that instead relies on deliverables and achievements will in itself enhance the productivity of the remote team.

The ‘always-on’ business mentality has brought real-time collaboration to the forefront emphasising how timely investment can streamline processes and offer cutting-edge capabilities to teams in need of competitive solutions. Businesses that favour collaboration tools that boost productivity, engagement and creativity will gain a powerful edge in this ever-evolving digital era.

The new normal

Remote teams need to collaborate cohesively, feel connected no matter where they are working from, and function effectively regardless of distance. However, workplace flexibility can only benefit the employees and the organisation if the technology infrastructure allows people to be at least as productive and efficient at home as they would be in the office.

The past few decades have witnessed unparalleled changes in collaboration technology, and organisations (and individuals) must leverage the innovation that the digital era has to offer. As more and more millennials enter the workforce, the way end-users go about their daily jobs is bringing forth several unique transformational aspects of collaboration and communications evolution.

The reimagined workplace will benefit from investments in infrastructure that include 5G connectivity and high-speed internet access that will become the norm rather than a luxury. Such a workforce will enjoy more flexible approaches to work/life balance from different geographical locations.

The need of the hour is to make sure that the available technology and resources are utilised to their full potential. A gap between the remote work policy and the infrastructure provided to the workforce can work against the ultimate goal of improving productivity and retention.

Today’s organisations need to be prepared for the unpredictable, for a disruption whose duration and impacts may be unknown. To facilitate this change, there needs to be a cultural shift at the boardroom level to encourage remote work as a rule rather than an exception.

This does not mean that the future workplace is one devoid of human contact. The reimagined workplace will be a hybrid of the office as a central location that can seamlessly branch out to connect remotely. It will soon become the new normal and urge employees to be more adaptable, to be productive no matter where and how they work. This new normal will define the workplace as one that combines the best-in-class technologies with a secure, contextual and unified experience, independent of any network or device.

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