Is there any life left in the office?

Over the past decade, communications have evolved rapidly – at such a rate that businesses have been unable to keep up.

May 27, 2015

Over the past decade, communications have evolved rapidly – at such a rate that businesses have been unable to keep up.

Opinions vary on what role the office should play today in modern business. Many vendors evangelise about how ‘work should be something we do, not somewhere we go’. Organisations like Google, for example, are following the flexible working vision where the office serves as more of a common meeting place for creativity and collaboration than a place where people sit at desks and bash out emails. I’m 100% behind this approach; you should now be able to work from anywhere and still be as engaged as you would be in the office. And if you do have to brave the commute, it should be to meet with co-workers in person.

But then I read about companies toying with the idea of taking it to the extreme – scrapping the office altogether. I, for one, would argue strongly that there’s not only life left in the office, but that it’s going through a reincarnation, encompassing new ways of working. The benefits of office working should not be forgotten.

Remote doesn’t have to mean disengaged

The rise of remote working, and increasingly dispersed workforces, has tended to create a work ethic that threatens detachment and a loss of rapport between employees. And while communications tools and mobile technology have done wonders to plug the geographical void, many of them are optimised for information and data exchange and have done little to engage employees or enable them to truly collaborate.

This is changing massively with continuous advancements in unified communications (UC). With more and more organisations implementing interoperable UC solutions, we find that employees can more freely embrace collaboration technologies, such as video conferencing and social media, and new access methods like wearables devices. When you’re working remotely, being able to IM a colleague or hop on a video call just as easily as you would send an email, makes work so much more social and leads to more engaged workforces. The same should be true of video and any other communication channel you’re using, where you don’t have to go to a separate room to check emails. Many organisations are using social collaboration tools such as enterprise social networks to encourage natural conversations between employees. Some have gone as far as to create avatar environments and use gamification to make enterprise communications more fun.

But this only really works when you have integrated tools, unified behind a single user interface. Having to use separate, disjointed applications that make communication cumbersome will often make sticking to email a more appealing option.

In this way, by enabling engaged and productive employees, work can be something we do, not somewhere we go.

So where does the office come in?

Despite the many advances in remote working technology, latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show that 87% of us still work primarily at the office. In my opinion, the office should remain for those that want to work in an office environment. Our office life is very much alive and is evolving with us, becoming more fluid as a result of technology and remote-working possibilities.

It seems UC has modern office and remote working sussed. We’d be incredibly short-sighted if we didn’t consider how all this technology will impact the actual office itself. Intelligent, communications-enabled systems, which not only personalise the office environment, but encourage colleagues to interact, can massively boost productivity and creativity and will stimulate employee engagement.

The impact of this on office space could be profound. Imagine a workspace that’s aware of you as an individual – whether you’re an employee, partner, customer or supplier. Imagine an office that recognises who is entering the building, what physical access they require, what devices they have with them, and what information they might need. What’s more, this office knows your preferences for light, temperature and room type. It will alert you when someone who might be useful to a project you’re working on enters the building; and even automatically set up a meeting with that person. Think about what this could do for collaboration and for employee engagement.

So while the working from anywhere trend is here to stay, I would encourage those ready to dismiss the traditional office set-up as outdated to think more creatively about what it could offer. Sophisticated communications-enabled technologies and an effective unified commutations strategy are already transforming offices and businesses will soon reap the benefits of more productive and collaborative environments. That’s one moment you’ll want to be in the office for.

Michael Pisvin, SI/SP Sales Engineer, Avaya.


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