14 Takeaways From The Future Workplace Summit

  • During the ISG Future Workplace Summit, technology, human resources, and workspace management experts shared predictions on how technology will impact the workplace experience.
  • Despite criticism, open workplace environments have the highest effectiveness and experience scores.
  • As for the flexible workspace industry, operators will closely follow the hotel-like model to provide bundled and highly flexible services.

Insights and predictions on how technology will continue to impact the workplace experience were presented at ISG Future Workplace Summit in New York City in March. Technology, human resources, and workspace management experts shared trends and predictions that will influence the way individuals engage with companies and workplaces.

Read how emerging technologies will dramatically reshape the workplace experience here.

1. Learning spaces will be among the most important spaces in the workplace. With the changing nature of work, it will be critical to allocate real estate to provide spaces for people to add new skills, according to Amanda Carroll, Principal at Gensler.
The physical workplace will need to adapt to the changing nature of work with the same agility as the technology driving the change.

Suggested Reading: “The Future of Work: The Rise of the Digital Workplace

2. Team building and collaboration are the most important aspects of a great environment. The new workplace is a collective where individual and shared perspectives are greater than the sum of their parts.

Suggested Reading: “Gensler: ‘Designing for the Human Experience Is the Future of Design’

Gensler’s recent research revealed how designing a human workplace will be a primary driver of the future of workplace design. Environments will be measured on their ability to deliver cultural value, connectivity, intelligence, and fully dynamic and immersive experiences.

3. Shared spaces will be a key component of the workplace experience. Shared spaces allow individuals to have access to a greater experience than they might have individually, much the same way Uber and Rent the Runway allow us to have something in the short term that is better than something we might own.

4. Mostly open environments have the highest effectiveness and experience scores. Gensler research revealed that successful open environments provide high levels of choice, variety and balance, with opportunities for privacy as well as group work areas. They should be multifaceted and multifunctional with tools such as Bluetooth enabled flat screen monitors.

5. AI is moving into an omnichannel experience for the user. Avatars can be customized and are able to select cognitive decisions for users, according to Chris Schmidt, solution engineering director at Stefanini. Some 47% of work is repeatable which means that AI can monitor and make recommendations to users.

AI can be used to deliver outbound communication, such as announcing when buildings are safe to reenter during natural disasters.

One particularly useful application of AI is sentiment analysis, which is when AI monitors customer conversations to measure how customers really feel.

6. Moving to AI will cost millions of jobs, necessitating retraining. McKinsey forecasts the transition to the age of AI will be more difficult than the Industrial Age, reported Steve LeVine, future editor of Axios. With 6 of 10 occupations able to automate, 375 million people will have to move to completely different occupations, leaving up to 38 million in the US out of work. To protect jobs, workers will have to proactively learn new skills.

7. Processes need to be scalable in the gig economy.  50% of the U.S. workforce will be freelance by 2027. A 40-year career was once standard, then the 4-year career became the norm. Today, a 4-month contract is not uncommon, and we are moving toward the 4-hour gig.

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In a fast-moving economy, processes must adapt quickly as well. For example, an onboarding process where it takes 4 to 6 weeks to assign a laptop is unacceptable for an 8 to 10-week internship.  Systematic, automated onboarding, and bring-your-own-device are possible solutions so provide employees and contract workers rapid access to tools, devices, and necessary data.

8. Data is currency that is useful only if you know what to do with it. As the amount of data generated continues to grow exponentially, it becomes more important to know how to process it and pull actionable insights from it. The amount of data generated in two days in 2005 was greater than the amount of data that was created from the beginning of time to 2003.

We are in an era where we have massive amounts of data flowing, but the power of the data is in the analytics. The true challenge is making sense of the data, which often requires a human touch. When used and analyzed correctly, data can be used proactively to help identify issues that may be causing or are about to cause a problem.

9. The intelligent workplace will be the new normal. The internet of things will have several applications in the workplace, according to ISG. The ideal workplace, however, will incorporation a combination of automation and humanity. The intelligent workplace must respond to a hierarchy of needs in order to motivate professionals to achieve and fulfill tasks and goals.

10. Multiple emerging technologies will be integrated for a seamless user workplace experience. While many technologies currently exist, uniting them into a single experience will be the next wave.

A futuristic video from JLL illustrated how technologies can converge to organize and facilitate an individual’s work and home life.

Other examples of integrated technology already in practice include the Disney Magic Band, which allows users to check into rides, unlock hotel doors, and remember a family’s favorite restaurant. Another is integrating data sources into digital assistance devices, such as the way airlines integrate Alexa to provide passengers flight information including security lines, road traffic, and weather.

11. Cognitive tools will learn how to infer information to provide greater user assistance. Already in place at numerous companies, chat bots such as Watson, Amelia, and Sophia can now infer data, making them even more valuable assistants.

For example, when a user asks, “How many sick days do I have left?” the 1.0 version of the intelligent chat bot would access the database and reply with the answer, explained Scott Furlong, ISG partner.

12. Invisible interfaces provide convenience. Author and futurist Steven VanBelleghem predicts the commoditization of data and that technology is becoming more human. One way we might experience that is with the invisible interface.

“Uber is not successful because we can hit a button and it knows where to go and drop me off,” Furlong noted. “Uber’s success hinges on the fact that it is an invisible interface that we don’t have to pay when we get out of the car. We get out of the car at our destination. Eventually we pay, give a tip, and rate them. But the point is that we didn’t have to pay right there, so the interface is becoming invisible and providing convenience, which is what users are looking for.”

13. We can expect rapid adoption of blockchain, which is currently where we saw the World Wide Web in the 1990s. Blockchain is often a consumer-led discussion versus a technology led discussion. Though still in its infancy, blockchain is exploding with 100 consortia developing more use cases and applications for the technology.

14. The future of work has no offices or occupiers. It’s a hotel-like Flexiverse where workers are travelers in need of flexibility and services.  If there’s no such thing as an office, you can no longer have an office occupier, proposed Frank Cottle, founder and CEO of the Alliance Group of Companies.

“There’s only the activity of officing, therefore, all workforces are comprised entirely of travelers,” he said. “If that’s the case, then the primary need of all travelers is flexibility,” related the 30-year veteran of the flexible workplace industry.

“So, what we see as the future of work is a combination of people, place and technology into a single bundled service agreement that’s highly flexible.”

Cottle predicted that the flexible workplace industry would continue to follow the hotel-like model where the primary obligation of the provider is service.

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