In the not-too-distant future, there’s a chance you won’t need to commute to work, at least not every day. Technology and a cloud-connected world are reshaping how we work and connect, upending the traditional 9-to-5 office model.
The 2019 Deloitte Insights’ study, “The Future of Work in Technology,” notes that workplaces must move from location-centric environments to ones that are relationship-oriented. “Fixed, uncompromising workplaces may need to evolve to virtual workplaces that leverage advanced mobility and connectivity, collaboration tools and [other tools],” the report says.
This might mean having a completely virtual workforce — or one that comes together in a single location on a periodic basis. Regardless, the traditional work week at a physical office is expected to become more the exception than the rule.
Workplace IT transformation is afoot, already fostering a remote working culture at organizations worldwide. The ability to work from the headquarters office, hub locations across the world, at home or even at the local coffee shop is fast becoming the norm for many employers.
These options will continue to expand across industries, even those that have been firmly entrenched in bricks-and-mortar operations. Technology will continue to drive this expansion.
What Role Will the Cloud Play in the Future?
An article published in late 2018 from HR Technologist, notes, “20 years ago, the idea of working remotely was a distant possibility,” as it required fax machines and expensive telephony to allow workers to connect with employers. Typically, these tools were available only at an actual office location.
Enter the Internet, and then the cloud. These developments spurred the creation of technologies with the power to make universal remote working a reality. They give workers the tools and ability to work from anywhere.
That’s the underlying fiber of the workplace of the future. Fluid. Connectable. Technology-driven. And for many workers, most likely cloud-based, if not fully remote.
A May 2018 study by Forrester and Google Cloud of 1,060 technology decision makers in nine countries indicates that one in four information workers now work in the cloud, using browser-based business apps across multiple devices. The concept of work/life balance drives what they do, and they appreciate the ability to access company resources from any location at any time versus only from a corporate office during business hours.
Eighty-one percent of the study’s respondents also indicated they are taking a cloud-first approach in the business or at least prioritizing the cloud for new business apps.
What Technologies are Driving Tomorrow’s Workplace?
This cloud-first approach demands strategic technologies, ones that ultimately will reshape office life in the future. Here are four that will have a significant impact on the way we work as we continue to move forward with the necessary technology:
Cloud-Based Computers and Connected Devices
The majority of respondents in the Forrester and Google Cloud study on cloud workers also reveals that companies are turning their attention to cloud-based computers such as Chromebooks for future workplace collaboration device needs that support a remote workforce. These devices are designed to be “cloud first.” They store all data in the cloud, allowing workers to access their email, documents and more from anywhere. Fifty-two percent noted they were planning to adopt these devices in the near future, while 28% already are using them. Similarly, mobile devices like smartphones, tablets, watches, fitness trackers and more also are becoming increasingly connected via the cloud in the Internet of Things (IoT).
The same Forrester study indicates that the shift to more collaborative, cloud-based work models means web browsers need to become more relevant and strategic. After all, they’re the vehicle for cloud work that relies on browser-based business apps. The study reveals that employees at 67% of responding organizations rely on web browsers, such as Chrome much more today than even just two years ago. Most also find web-apps such as G Suite easier to work with than desktop apps.
Smart Meetings Technology
As workers become more remotely connected, employers need to offer new ways to orchestrate team meetings for those onsite and offsite. Video-enhanced conference rooms use technology, such as Google Hangouts Meet to connect all who need to participate via cloud-based video conferencing. These rooms are optimized with cameras and microphones to make virtual meetings seamless and efficient. On the remote side, workers merely connect using their webcam and browser.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Formerly a space-age phenomenon that made great fodder for sci-fi flicks, the age of real-world AI has arrived. It is making inroads in businesses, integrating into key processes, products and services. Thanks to related processes like big data and machine learning services, AI’s role in the workplace will only expand and thrive as it becomes more prevalent in web apps and the Internet of Things (IoT).
Embracing the “Internet of the Workplace”
All of these technologies come together to accommodate new ways of working that are flexible — and not tied to a specific location. An article by Robert Wilkinson of Colliers International calls this the Internet of the Workplace (IoW). At Colliers, this refers to an “integrated enterprise architecture that connects employees and enables them to collaborate and perform regardless of location.”
It’s a great way to think about the workplace of the future and the role the cloud plays within it. The cloud is more than a way to store your data for better security, availability and productivity. It’s well on its way to being a driving force for how people do their work and collaborate with others every day. It will be the standard vehicle for business operations in the future.
The future is already happening. Devices, browsers, infrastructure and intelligence are starting to come together to create a cloud-first workplace that’s smarter, better and faster. Organizations are realizing its immense power and are moving almost entirely, if not completely, to cloud-based infrastructure and tools.
Are you ready to embrace the future of a cloud-first workplace? There’s no better time than now to start making plans for your journey.