Anne Sheehan
Anne Sheehan, Enterprise Director, Vodafone UK

How technology is shaping the workplace of the future

The fundamentals of business have changed. The speed of business is ferocious now – services are delivered in the blink of an eye, insights can be gathered on customers using real-time data, and disruptors can pull the rug from beneath a company’s feet before they know it.

Even the way many of us are employed is changing – with the gig economy seeing more flexibility in how we pick and choose our next career move.

Whether it is a freelance business consultant accessing critical information while visiting a client or a CEO accessing real-time information on business performance – technology and connectivity underpin the transformation taking place in the way we work. It’s unsurprising then, to find that 42% of CEOs have begun digital business transformation, while 56% say digital investments have improved net profit (Gartner, 2017).

But how is technology really changing the way we work?

A connected, more productive workplace

With the benefits that transformational technologies – like the Internet of Things (IoT), new communications tools and smart connectivity – will bring to businesses, the workplace of the future promises to be connected, productive and exciting.

Vodafone’s latest global IoT barometer found 51% of IoT adopters say the technology is increasing revenues by opening up new revenue streams. The range of benefits that users are getting from IoT is also widening as adoption increases – greater business insights, reduced costs and improved employee productivity top the list. This will see more accurate allocation of resources, including people – for example, because sensors will alert them to necessary maintenance, engineers will spend less time checking equipment.

New communications tools will also make collaborating much simpler and more natural, whether working with a colleague in the same room or half way around the world. This means tools that don’t just add to those at hand today – a landline, a mobile phone, etc. – but that unify communications in a coherent, simple way. This will see far better quality interactions among workers, partners and customers, while also increasing their responsiveness.

At the same time, the networks underpinning these technologies and services will get faster, more reliable, and smarter. Networks, for example, will be simple to switch on and off, requiring less and less management for businesses. They will have innovative features too, like being able to prioritise traffic and bandwidth based on business needs at the time – ensuring mission critical activities are never held up.

This will see workplaces that are fuelled by connectivity. Information, people, devices, sensors – all connected and working together.

A smarter approach to working flexibly

With the flexibility and connectivity afforded by technology, there will naturally be a number of workers who will find themselves out of the office.

Consider the engineer repairing a piece of equipment out in the field based on the information IoT sensors provided, an account manager visiting a number of customers on site, or a strategy director building out a plan from the peace and quiet of their own home. There are countless examples where flexible working makes sense. But, is it right for everyone? In reality, a smart approach must be taken to ensure the true benefits of workforce flexibility are felt.

We experienced this first hand at Vodafone.

We began by rolling out a whole range of mobile technology to our employees, but it wasn’t until we started adapting our actual workspaces that we witnessed the real potential for technology to enhance the way we work.

Knowing that the majority of meetings only involved two or three people, as opposed to requiring large meeting spaces, we started creating new areas where people could conduct these smaller meetings or bring team members together in dedicated areas to solve specific challenges more quickly.

It’s at that point that our mobile solutions really came to life.

Something we know many businesses struggle with is knowing which technology to invest in that will still be relevant in five years’ time. By gaining insight about how people are working, rejigging workspaces and implementing a technology solution that enhances work, we’ve transformed our identity as a business.

Making technology work for your business

Ultimately, technology is a key lever for productivity: The Vodafone-commissioned ‘Power of Productivity’ report by the London School of Economics found that there is potential for a lift in productivity by as much as 20% nationwide if the following three issues were addressed in unison: management practices, use of technology, and workforce flexibility. With new services and tools like smart connectivity and IoT, the future is exciting. But a smart approach to technology is how organisations can really get the benefits that our future offers.

This will be different for each business, each team and role – for some people, they may need greater flexibility in their role so they can spend more time with customers, while others will benefit from being in the office and having direct access to colleagues. After all, it’s important to remember that one size does not fit all.

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