When designing the future workplace it pays to put your people first

When designing the future workplace it pays to put your people first

When it comes to keeping up with the fast-changing nature of the modern, flexible workplace it pays – perhaps ironically – for CIOs to take a structured approach.

Trends such as the move towards a hyperconnected world, the pervasive nature of connectivity and the rise of cloud, mobile and big data can place huge demands on the corporate workplace. This is particularly the case for organizations which might be unprepared for a flexible and agile approach to working that these technological developments have not only made possible but actively encouraged.

Meanwhile, the boundaries between work and private life are disappearing. It’s become easy to take work home – or almost anywhere outside of the traditional office, for that matter. Indeed, there is a question as to whether it might be worth moving on from the 9-5 working day entirely.

The trend of consumerization has led to workers having new expectations: they want access to the right tools to do their jobs, and they want them to be available across all of their work devices – just as easily and freely as they’re used to them being on their personal devices.

CIOs are faced with the unique challenge of modernizing their workplaces, while also needing to consider the more technical aspect of managing the technological infrastructure that can support a more flexible work environment.

To deliver the end-user experience they are looking for, IT leaders should consider a combination of the following three approaches in their quest to construct the perfect working environment.

1. Deploy a standardized workplace environment

When it comes to the workplace of today, the current approach is to deploy a system and then use ad hoc patches to address issues that users come up against.

This is, at best, a reactive approach. The lack of real updates means that people will often not have the latest, most efficient tools available to them.

Instead, they’re having to find workarounds for their tasks and lack the flexibility that comes with working seamlessly across devices – whether at work, from home, or on the move.

Standardization of the workplace – Windows 10 being a prime example – is important because it enables fast and continuous development combined with stability and manageability.

And this doesn’t have to be at the expense of security, freedom or self-reliance for the user. A well designed workplace will incorporate this, and can be expanded with extra options too.

With the arrival of Windows 10 and other technologies it has become easier than ever to design, manage and even migrate user profiles without a hitch – on CYO (Choose Your Own) as well as BYO (Bring Your Own) devices.

2. User-centric vs. device-centric approach

Modern devices such as laptops, smartphones and tablets are varied and powerful enough for almost all user types. Nearly all organizations will have at least one small group of users with specific needs.

Despite this, many companies continue to take a traditional, device-centric approach to IT procurement. That is, businesses will make a total switchover to a new system without necessarily taking the opportunity to understand which devices could benefit which different types of user.

This is missing a trick.

By adopting a more flexible approach which focuses on what users actually need their devices for, organizations have an opportunity to put people at the heart of the solution – and to help them realize their full potential in the meantime.

A banking organization, for example, needs to take account of differences between office-based employees, field workers and stock brokers in the dealing room who often work on multiple screens simultaneously.

What’s more is that, in an increasingly mobile work environment, there’s a high chance that all of these user groups will be working across more than one device and in more than one location over the course of any given day. The devices available to them should reflect this need to be able to connect, communicate and collaborate successfully wherever they are.

The workplace design has to provide for all of these individual needs. It’s up to the user or organization to choose the optimal device for each working style.

In addition to this, there are freelancers and contractors who bring their own devices to be considered. It’s vital that these workers too can work efficiently and safely with access to apps and data.

3. Enabling users means providing them with the right support anytime, anywhere

Needless to say, things won’t always go to plan when it comes to rolling out new technologies and providing employees with new devices. A support system which covers all bases and enables users to get the most out of their technology is vital.

The vast majority of organizations acknowledge the value of an Omni-channel support option, with customer-centric service staff who can help a broad mix of workers – from digital natives to digital novices – with any problem they might encounter. It’s a cost, but a necessary one.

This will commonly involve a combination of offshore service desks as well as an onsite service desk. The benefits of physical support option that is in the customer environment are undeniable: it literally shortens the distance between the service desk and the business it is supporting.

Support in a user-centric workplace means making these various options as contextual, personalized and accessible as possible. As such, where physical desks are not a possibility, a huge range of contact options into service desks are available: employees can call in issues via phone, Skype, WhatsApp, or even social tools like Twitter and Facebook.

Many technologies in the workplace are so innovative and new that workers often won’t know how to use them at first sight. Demonstrating new functionalities and coaching in the new workplace environment is becoming a new and crucial area of expertise.

In this sense, similarly to the deployment of standardized workplaces, support has grown from being a largely reactive facility to something more dynamic in responding to user needs.

Rather than simply being there when a user needs something fixed, the support system – which is arguably better thought of as a user enablement system – can also be provided as a proactive service that constantly analyzes the user’s environment to detect and fix issues without direct user interaction.

In some cases the company culture will not yet be ready to fully embrace more flexible working forms – even with the opportunities that cloud services such as Skype for Business, Office 365 and Google Apps provide.

However, the problem of Shadow IT persists. In most cases, this is because the organization’s IT facilities lack the capabilities needed for employees to get their work done effectively.

It makes sense then, when designing new workplace environments, for the users’ and business’ functional requirements to be the starting point. Modern technology is capable and flexible enough to cope with this, and to provide the environment that employees need to be productive and successful.

Instilling confidence in the workforce that this is the case, however, can still provide a challenge. This requires CIOs to take on a strong leadership role as directors of change and the guide for the business.

Certainly with ever more innovations approaching the workplace – I’ve not even covered wearables and various ‘Internet of Things-type’ devices here – the CIO’s role is going to be more important than ever.

For more information about the digitalization of the workplace environment, visit our Digital Workplace site.

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