The digital workplace calls for a tech overhaul

Demographics and cloud applications are transforming the workplace. IT leaders must embrace the physical, cultural and technological change

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The meeting room of the future will be a connected, casual hub space, ready for local or connected discussions

The digital workplace as a concept has been on the radar for a couple of years, but advances in technology, as well as workplace demographic trends, mean digital transformation has gone mainstream. Many companies are now embracing collaboration on a global scale.

The advent of cloud-based technologies means there’s an app for practically everything in the workplace. Meanwhile, IT leaders have the tricky task of managing the proliferation of technology – some IT-defined standards, some based on employee preference while securing and protecting company data.

Harbingers of change
Changes in workplace demographics have also heavily influenced the rise of the digital workplace. Millennials make up a sizeable portion of the workforce, and they come to work expecting a technological ecosystem similar to what they use outside the office: social media, familiar apps, and video on demand. As a result, the definition of the workplace is becoming increasingly fluid. Work is no longer a place we go to, but something we do, regardless of location. The way we organise our physical workplaces is also changing; office walls are being torn down and teams are moving into open spaces. Many employees work remotely, and technology allows them to stay connected with no loss of productivity or contribution.

These physical changes go hand-in-hand with a cultural shift; the focus has moved from individual work to team-based collaboration, and the demand for so-called ‘huddle’ spaces – informal spaces where virtual teams can collaborate with video – is exploding. According to Andrew Davis, Senior Analyst at Wainhouse Research: “In our recent State of the State report on enterprise video conferencing, we estimated that there are 30-50 million huddle rooms globally, and that affordability, self-service, and ease-of-use will be key factors for video adoption in these rooms.”

Changes in workplace demographics have heavily influenced the rise of the digital workplace

Collaborative culture
Unified communications (UC), the underlying technology that has proven pivotal to digital workplace adoption, has enabled communication from VoIP to messaging to video conferencing. More recently, a major factor in accelerating change has been the advent of cloud-based UC and collaboration platforms, which are more affordable and flexible than the fixed systems that came before.

Collaboration is increasingly moving away from fixed systems into workflow applications such as Slack and Microsoft Teams (the chat-based workspace in Office 365), which act as a sort of ‘UC 2.0’. This type of communication is gradually taking the place of traditional channels, such as email, seen by some employees as an old-fashioned method of communication.

For IT leaders, democratisation of technology and employee demands for collaborative technologies are a fact of life in the modern workplace. The challenge is to embrace the change and enable employees while defining security standards that protect company data and assets in a fluid communications environment.

Into the future
Increasingly, IT leaders are working hand-in-hand with facilities and HR functions to enable digital workplace transformation, redesigning the physical layout of the office to suit the new way of working, converting offices and meeting rooms to huddle rooms, and equipping these with self-service technology that enables team collaboration. Deploying and offering the correct tools and technologies can prove pivotal in talent acquisition and retention for businesses of all sizes.

Gone are the days of big, expensive and complicated equipment that is limited to the boardroom. The good news for companies today is that scaling technology to huddle spaces is now a realistic proposition with the availability of affordable, high-quality video conferencing endpoints, such as Logitech’s new MeetUp ConferenceCam, ensuring price is not the barrier to the adoption of collaborative technologies.