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Can you future-proof your workplace?

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Can you future-proof your workplace?

Jeremy Horey | Group Consulting Director

Future-proofing is based on predicting likely outcomes and preparing for them in order to both seize new opportunities and to minimise shocks and stresses from events in the future. From an individual planning their own career to a company designing a product, to governments managing entire economies, future-proofing makes things more resilient, more maintainable and efficient as situations change.

An organisation which prepares both its employees and the physical and technological infrastructure that supports the business is better able to deal with and take advantage of inevitable change. And in particular, if we build flexible and resilient workplaces we can take advantage of new opportunities when they arise, while also being able to adapt to and bounce back from any disruptions along the way.

We recently completed our global research project, The Digital Workplace Report: Transforming Your Business, surveying 850 business leaders about their digital transformation efforts. This survey revealed how organisations are readying themselves for the future.

The challenges of future-proofing your workplace

Our research revealed that the vast majority of organisations have at least some plans to develop a ‘comprehensive strategy’ for the emerging digital workplace. However, while the intention might be there, 60% do not in fact have any formal plan in place at all.

As well as a lack of planning, there are other barriers to future proofing the workplace. While organisations would like to adopt more flexible and resilient work styles, 62% cite IT issues as a major barrier, and 60% point the finger at organisational issues which prevent meaningful changes in work styles from happening.

The survey tells us that building a flexible and resilient workplace runs into these sort of issues:

  • Prediction

‘Predicting the future’ is sometimes called a fool’s game. That said, analysing major social, technological, economic and demographic trends to develop an idea of what the future may look like is plausible and sensible. However, knowing which trends to focus on and where you should invest is far from simple.

  • Resistance to change

Employees, managers and even other business leaders will often push back at any structural changes in the organisation which have no obvious or immediate short-term benefits.

  • Anxiety

Tied to the above is anxiety about change, which has recently been exacerbated with fears about automation.

How to future-proof the workplace

Thinking strategically is one of the most useful ways to start building your flexible and resilient work styles and the workplace to support them. As we have seen, we expect that this sort of workplace will pay dividends down the line.

  • Research trends that are likely to affect your sector

Draw on any research already done by your organisation on trends affecting your organisation and your markets, but also look at more general trends, too. Obvious examples are the major demographic trends which will likely affect your customers, your employees and the products or services you sell.

  • Build plans based on your research

Work with an organisation that has done this sort of work before to help you draw together the research with their experience into a plan. Your partner organisation can then work with other people in your business to refine and then socialise the plan.

  • Involve your lines of business (LOBs) in decisions

Making decisions about how your organisation adapts to future trends should involve the people who are most affected – your employees. Already, our research revealed that 39% of organisations get significant LOB input when defining their digital workplace strategies. The trend is towards more distributed decision-making in the organisation. So, if engaged early, these people are going to be key stakeholders and supporters of your strategy.

  • Educate and communicate about changes

As you begin to make changes to how the organisation functions, you must help employees and customers adapt to that change. For instance, you might be investing in new technology such as workplace analytics tools – something our survey revealed a quarter of businesses will introduce into their workplaces within a year. Any new technology needs a mature change management process underpinning it, where employees are transparently informed about what is happening and why. Again a partner can help here.

  • Choose technology which allows for integration

Most organisations use a range of technologies to support for communication and collaboration. That is probably not going to change any time soon. This is why it is important that wherever you have control you choose tools that are adaptable and flexible and that easily connect to other platforms. Most organisations will use tools and business applications partly hosted in the cloud and partly hosted on premise. Our research shows there is already a worldwide shift towards hosting business applications on the cloud, and this is only set to increase.

  • Investigate new conceptions of the workplace

A final method of future-proofing your workplace is to explore how you could apply new ways of working. One increasingly common trend is to have employees working from outside the office – our research revealed that 40% of organisations have at least some employees working from home full-time today. You should also begin investigating how Internet of Things sensors can give you new insights into the workplace, and explore how other technologies, such as conferencing technology, can change how teams interact.

Future-proofed companies will succeed

The world of work is changing rapidly. A new, digital-native generation is joining the workforce with new different expectations around the use and availability of  technology. It is easier than ever to do business internationally. As well, companies with disruptive business models are entering the market. Some won’t last but other will completely change the areas in which they operate.

In this changing scenario, it is essential to future-proof your workplace. A good place to start is research – our Digital Workplace Report will provide you with a good feel for what is happening today. Next, you need to begin preparing for how you can change to future-proof your business – our Workplace Assessment gives you a blueprint for future-proofing.

To learn more about future-proofing your workplace, get in touch with our experts today.