In the fall of 2019, thinking and planning for the future of work was a strategic exercise. Today, defining and executing practices for the “future of work” is a matter of survival for many organization.
The urgency is so great that it’s become a hot topic for the world’s top consulting firms. McKinsey and Deloitte have researched, explored, and discussed the topic. Just recently, Gartner released a report addressing one of the commonly embraced “future” work environments today: the hybrid workplace.
There is a simple reality for organizations today. We need to be flexible. We also need to re-examine the processes by which we communicate, collaborate and share information. Importantly, information and data security are a topmost priority.
The best processes, technologies and services will vary from organization to organization, depending on what work model they chose.
This guide aims to:
– Answer questions about the different work styles and office environments
– Share ideas, tips and best practices identified by industry leaders
– Help you along the process, whether you are just getting started or trying to navigate the challenges of a constantly changing world
What does the future of work look like?
Gartner states: “As organizations worldwide attempt to return to the office, employees demand continued flexibility in their ways of working.”1
In a word, the future of work can be defined by ‘flexibility’.
Flexibility in the workplace creates what is called a hybrid work model. Sometimes, employees are in the office, sometimes they are not. Some employees need to work in the office more while others may be working from their home office more often.
There are advantages to this work model. For example, you have a larger talent pool to find and hire employees from anywhere in the world.
But this comes with challenges too.
Challenges of a hybrid work model
The implications of the hybrid work model for organizations create challenges in several areas.
Security – This may be the most pressing element as employees working offsite are outside the bounds of traditional network security. Security is no longer simply focused on the network, the focus is now on securing information and data on both networks and endpoints.
Managing IT infrastructure and services – Many IT teams were stretched thin when employees were primarily located in offices. A disparate workforce can strain even the most talented IT teams.
Workflows – When employees involved in a workflow are working remotely from various locations, moving paper becomes impractical. Digital workflows can increase the speed of communication but handling, approving, storing, and securing digital documents is a big business liability if done following the same processes used for paper-based information. For example, documents or information moved by email creates copies on multiple endpoints – a huge data security risk, while inboxes become unwieldy for an individual to manage.
Mail communication – How do you get mail to employees who aren’t in the office?
Collaboration – Employees, partners, and vendors need efficient ways to share ideas, work on documents, and solve problems. Video meetings can work when you only need to talk and/or present. But when your team needs to do more involved collaborative efforts, like working on the same document simultaneously, you may need alternatives like leveraging interactive whiteboards or IFPDs.
Employee engagement – Employees have fewer opportunities for informal interactions and conversations, which plays an important role in team building and even problem-solving.
Workspace organization and management – New health and safety concerns affect how we need to organize office spaces, requiring more advanced planning and management.
These challenges are only a handful of examples facing organizations today. You may find yourself facing challenges specific and unique to your business as a result of today’s demand for flexibility.
To develop the best work model for your organization, and address these challenges and more, you may find it best to first define which work model best fits what you need for your business.
4 types of “future” work environments, defined
In a report completed earlier this year, Gartner defined four types of trending work environments2:
– Office or on-site
– Hybrid, where employees work in the office and remotely, to varying degrees
– Remote, where employees work in remote locations either by necessity or choice, and office gatherings are rare
– Borderless, a situation where employees may reside in other countries
Regardless of which is best for you, the future is a digital workplace
The idea of the digital workplace has been around for a long while. Descriptions, however, vary, often depending on the perspective of the organization defining it. For example:
– A workflow or teamwork management tool might describe the digital workplace as the platform where work gets done
– You might see it defined as a digital replacement for the physical workplace
– Business consultants may describe it by the benefits it delivers
We define the digital workplace as “bringingpeople together by leveraging technology to empower integrated, secured communications, employee productivity, and competitive advantage to create seamless employee and customer experiences, enhance business agility, and drive the business forward.”
In practice, the digital workplace reduces – or replaces – paper-based processes with digital documents and communication and makes it possible to work anywhere.
And that, today, is exactly the type of environment organizations of every kind are finding it necessary to embrace to some degree.
It probably looks very different from how it did at the beginning of 2020. And here’s perhaps the most relevant question – what will your workplace look like tomorrow?
If you’re reading this article, it means you may be looking for ideas. Be assured, that you are not alone. Our solutions advisors work with businesses from the smallest SMB to enterprises across various industries to help them design and implement digital workspace solutions to address their specific needs.
The simple reality is that we need to reimagine our workspace. We can begin by asking questions, such as:
– Do I need the same amount of office space for employees as before?
– How will employees securely share and transmit business information?
– What must we do to ensure a quality customer experience with a distributed workforce?
These may be high-level questions, but that’s the best place to get started as you begin to reimagine what your workplace will look like.
A lot of factors will determine exactly what your hybrid workplace looks like. Yet, while the details will differ, the process will be the same in which you need to:
– Identify needs
– Define key business activities
– Prioritize and evaluate processes
– Choose the “tools” that enable your team to deliver for your customers
Here’s a closer look at each with some key considerations.
Needs include those of customers and your employees, which are both vitally important to consider as your customers are your reason for being in business, and your employees keep you going. The business itself has needs that should be considered. You may also want or need to consider the needs of your vendors and partners.
– Ask customers about their top challenges and then listen
– Get employee feedback about their challenges and what they would want or need in a work environment
– Take customer and employee feedback and then ask questions to isolate the needs of the business. Take these answers, look at how those needs match with current business operations, specifically relating to assets and real estate, and evaluate how those would need to change to accommodate the newly identified needs
Define key business activities
In this step, you want to define the activities that make your business “go.”
– Make a list of business activities
– Determine the importance of each
– Highlight which will be most impacted by a change to a hybrid work model
– What you define in this step will be important in the next
Prioritize and evaluate processes
Every activity has a process behind it. As you look at your key business activities, you want to identify the ones that are most important and most affected by the change in how and where we work. These will be your top priorities to address.
Creating seamless processes – or at least streamlining processes – is vital to both productivity and data security, each impacting your customers.
This may be the hardest step. You may discover that you need to completely reimagine how you work, at least in some areas of your business.
Choose the right tools that enable you to deliver for your customers
Your hybrid workplace needs to deliver for your customers and keep your employees engaged and productive, while still offering them the flexibility they need to keep pace in their own lives.
Fortunately, there are a lot of resources available to you. This includes working with a trusted partner that offers digital workplace solutions to help you make your hybrid work model efficient and effective.
Whether you want to enhance collaboration, support seamless communication, increase efficiency or optimize processes to enable better hybrid work – Ricoh can support you at every stage of your journey. Discover our robust and scalable digital workspace solutionsto help you redefine work and change. For better.
1Gartner®, Quick Answer: 5 Things Digital Workplace Leaders Must Do to Support the Hybrid Workplace
2Gartner®, CIOs Need to Embrace Radical Flexibility to Drive the Post COVID-19 Work Experience
Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally, and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.
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