Meeting the changing needs of the modern workplace

by FM Media
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Some of the key aspects to address to meet the changing needs of the modern workplace are outlined by GARY DENMAN, managing director for Australia and New Zealand at Polycom.

Have you ever thought about what the workplace of the future might look like? We regularly hear about exciting, futuristic advancements in technology that have the potential to fundamentally change the way we live and work. All too often, these innovations become available before we have had a chance to fully digest the original concept.
Can you remember when touchscreen technology first became available? For anyone with a tablet or smartphone, this has now become commonplace. Now, the likes of retina displays and near field communication are also being used more broadly – concepts we previously never thought possible. There is an air of excitement about how far technology can bring us and this needs to be considered when designing and planning for the modern workplace.
Without question, the face of the workplace, as we have traditionally come to know it, has changed tremendously over the past three to five years. This, in part, can be attributed to a number of factors, not least of all the changing perception of what businesses deem to be the key factors associated with driving productivity. Productivity is dependent on three such key factors: people, processes and technology.
In today’s rapidly evolving technology landscape, we are seeing a number of trends that are creating a dramatic change in the way people leverage technology applications and solutions to drive productivity in both their personal and professional lives. In particular, trends that have started to emerge in the past six to 12 months, such as bring your own device (BYOD) and the consumerisation of IT, which have largely been derived from advancements in the mobility sector, are driving an increase in the volume of remote workers in Australia, including a significant increase in the number of people working from home or teleworking.
In addition, hot desking, which sees multiple workers using a single physical workstation or surface during different time periods in a single office, is also gaining prevalence, as people remain more connected using a multitude of mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.

Although teleworking and hot-desking are not brand new concepts, trends in mobility are transforming the way people work, and making it easier for them to work from anywhere. Taking me as an example, I often use my tablet device to dial into video calls with the US from home, for executive meetings at any time. This, together with increased network accessibility and high internet bandwidth, is changing the traditional workplace as we see a greater demand for true collaboration spaces from employees.
In addition to the broader adoption of technology, the need for collaboration is also being demanded by the influx of Generation Y employees who have come to expect innovative workplace solutions such as mobile device management strategies to support BYOD, unified communications capabilities such as integration with Microsoft Lync, and high definition voice and video solutions for instant access to friends, family and colleagues, no matter their location.
Subsequently, in today’s connected business environment we are seeing an increased prevalence of Australian companies implementing strategies to support a mobile workforce, which sees employees being provided with enterprise-grade tools, which can just as easily be accessed on the move, as in a physical corporate office environment. Facilitating flexible working arrangements for employees such as these requires flexible working environments and this is what the workplace of the future must start to look like.
What does all this mean for the facilities management community? Productivity lies at the core of what facilities managers do and as the demands from people change, there is an increased pressure on this segment to evolve and implement technology to improve workflow and business processes, ensuring the creation of the modern workplace.

As we have already discussed, several business trends are converging and new technologies are emerging that are evolving the way people work together and collaborate. Our appetite for increased connectedness is putting increased pressure on facilities managers to create new ways to bring us closer together. One of the key considerations that need to keep top of mind when thinking about office layouts as part of refurbishments or office moves is the need for spaces that reflect openness, flexibility and collaboration, including shared areas that foster teamwork, collaboration and innovation. And new technologies such as mobility video collaboration and cloud-delivered services are the driving forces behind a whole new paradigm for communication. Outlined below are some of the key considerations today’s facilities managers need to address to meet the changing needs of the modern workplace.

Any collaboration solution is only as good as the network on which it resides. Given the standards people have come to expect in terms of broadband speeds and network bandwidth, this is a major consideration for any facility manager seeking to incorporate a truly collaborative and flexible working environment for staff.
With the recent explosion and availability of key applications, the modern workplace must have the correct network provisions in place to support multiple communication technologies, including high-definition video solutions, which has been proven to foster increased and improved collaboration. If you are installing new equipment or upgrading an existing network, understanding the specific requirements in advance will be critical for success.

Video collaboration is increasingly recognised as a mission-critical business solution that removes the barriers of distance and time by connecting colleagues, partners, customers and other key business stakeholders seamlessly in real time, regardless of their location. By making video collaboration simple to use and available to everyone through open, standards-based software delivered on-premises or from the cloud, we are starting to see the video dial tone become as widely known and extensively used as the telephone dial tone.
The ease with which unified communication solutions such as high definition video can be deployed to connect people securely across any network, protocol, application or device, means it should be central to any facilities manager’s plans when thinking about the modern workplace. In addition to creating a true space for collaboration, high-definition video solutions can also be used to support facilities managers in other areas of their role, in terms of:

  • monitoring building automation systems
  • health and safety
  • security, and
  • disaster recovery.

Today, more than a seventh of the human population teleworks, and most of us are remote or mobile at least some of the time. Software-based free-to-download mobile solutions can be used to extend the enterprise-grade video collaboration capabilities beyond the conference room, office and firewall to mobile tablets and smartphones, enabling video usage anywhere. These software-based applications can connect seamlessly with dedicated telepresence suites already in place, ensuring continual ROI on existing investments.

Collaboration solutions that have open, standards-based interoperability eliminates collaboration silos caused by systems that don’t talk to each other and, subsequently, ensure the investment in these solutions is protected. Compatibility with legacy investments and forward-compatibility with new and emerging systems is also a key consideration when investing in the right collaboration technology.

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