Technology is influencing the process & progress of work
The world of work is changing almost beyond recognition. Technology has not only disrupted the workplace itself – it has transformed how workers carry out their jobs with new tools and protocols. Employers are on the look out for entirely new skillsets, and in some cases are gradually replacing human staff with robots and machine learning software.
New tech is influencing the physical appearance of professional environments, as well as the processes, management and collaboration that goes on within them. We are already experiencing the transition into the workplace of the future, but what will this look like, and how will it affect industry and society?
Connected, collaborative and controlled
In many ways, technology has brought unprecedented improvements to workplaces. 3D printers and industrial robots have streamlined production, the Internet of Things has turned offices, workshops and job sites into hubs of connectivity, and Artificial Intelligence can sift through vast amounts of important data. Visualisation technology has enabled business negotiations to take place between companies across the globe, as well as guiding employees through complicated maintenance and construction projects. The influx of tech has encouraged collaboration and communication both within and between businesses, and workers themselves can now be monitored through smart wearables and sensors. Microsoft recently demonstrated a cloud based system that can identify people, objects and actions using smart sensors that are able to compute over 27 million recognitions per second. All of these developments are accumulating into hyper connected spaces that use metrics to maximise performance.
What will the workplace of the future look like? Theoretically, workplaces will utilise multiple innovative developments in order to find out exactly what is happening within the professional environment at any given time. Both employers and employees will be able to access a company wide snapshot. But what’s the point?
Disrupting the workplace. . . and workers
Connected, intelligent workplaces have a plethora of uses that stretch well beyond discovering who has been using excessive photocopier credits. In depth metrics allow business owners to check that their company is running according to plan. For example, management teams could work out which departments are communicating most effectively, and which are failing to cooperate. This is just one way of tracking progress. Bosses will also keep an eye on their employees via sensors and wearables, making sure they are adhering to company policy. Of course, this depends on whether employees accept trackers. Synthetic Sensors has just figured out how to monitor an entire room with just one sensor, so eventually you might not need to stick a device on your workers to know what they’re up to.
On the one hand, connectivity has the potential to increase workplace efficiency and make the most of company data to improve the services and products it offers. On the other hand, it’s almost too controlled, and gives off some serious Big Brother vibes. But there is another positive outcome of data driven environments – safety. If all objects, employees and actions are accounted for, then accidents will be far less common. While in some ways that isn’t great news for insurance companies, it’s pretty reassuring for everyone else. When it comes to employment patterns, the workplace of the future will call for a new kind of employee – one that understands hardware and software, and can deal with it if it goes wrong. Of course, disrupted workplaces won’t be beneficial for everyone. Many human roles will become less useful once advanced software and machines can do them more efficiently. Some employees will work from home, whereas others will simply be made redundant. In the eyes of many, this is a fair price to pay for improved processes and products.
Unsurprisingly, it seems the workplace of the future will be saturated by technology. Hardware will take over manual tasks, and software will use data to achieve overall business efficiency. The extent to which this will happen is dependent on industry, and the willingness of companies to adapt. Human employees will continue to have a place in these tech saturated environments, but largely as overseers and managers. If employers keep replacing actual people with machines and software, the workplace as we know it will eventually cease to exist. Meetings will take place in Virtual Reality, manufacturing will be completed by machines, and metrics will be totted up and analysed by machine learning algorithms. Now that C-suite executives have accepted the significance of disruption, our physical professional environments will never look quite the same.
Is your company’s workplace transitioning into an innovative, data rich space? Could your industry benefit from increased connectivity? Which will be most useful in the transition to future working environments – smart wearables or sensors? Share your thoughts and experiences.