Lately I have spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about what the workplace of the future may look like.

For what seems like forever the workplace has been relatively unchanged. Cubicles, Offices, Meeting Rooms, Multipurpose Spaces; dependent on the size of the workplace it had more or less or each of these, but they were all there none the less.

With the increased affordability of computing we saw computers become a fixture on every desk with really the only visible change over the past several years being the movement to the larger sleeker flat panel. Otherwise the office tended to be just that…an office. Once you saw one, you had seen them all.

Over the past decade with the heating up of Tech and Social Media we saw a migration toward more “modern and cool” offices. A movement that started with companies like Microsoft and has since evolved with the likes of Facebook, Google, and Twitter. This led to CEO’s in cubicles, and the re-categorization of break rooms into “Huddle Rooms” and other trends to reflect the hip young movement toward the cloud.

While these types of offices are definitely hip and different, they have hardly become the norm. Most offices have stayed the course of traditional office space, however change is inevitable and coming quickly to an office near you.

Here are 6 trends transforming the Workplace. Is your organization ready for these changes?

  • Distributed Workforce: With more and more available technology for collaboration and communication, companies are taking the “Best Person for the Job” approach. This means employees are being hired because they are the best candidate regardless of where they are located.
    The indirect effect of this trend is less requirement for centralized meeting spaces. Meaning that traditional training and meeting rooms with integrated systems may see a decline where companies will take the previous investments in on-premise systems and move them toward investments in cloud based collaboration tools. This means organizations will need to invest in technology that allows anyone to meet anywhere. This has been evolving for some time now, but is becoming a business imperative rather than a nice to have.
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  • De-materialization/Mobility: Technology is getting smaller, faster, and more portable. This doesn’t mean that no one will want to buy a 150″ flat panel, but there are many devices being built and developed with minimal footprint that will be able to portray high resolution images. The same trend is being seen with computers and other mobile devices. Less material means greater mobility and people want that. To further the dematerialization process and add flexibility to mobility, gigabit wi-fi (802.11ac) is arriving and this will allow wi-fi enabled devices to display and receive content without the boxes and wires.
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  • Consumerization: For the longest time commercial/pro products drove the development of consumer products. The coolest gizmos and gadgets were developed for the workplace or high tech learning environment and eventually they would pull there way through to the consumer market. Over the past several years this trend has been turned upside down. Now the technology in the work place is being driven from the user (consumer) back to the workplace and corporate technology teams are expected to figure out how to make this happen. This has led to what many IT companies have called the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) movement.
    For businesses this creates a need to embrace technology that runs on consumer platforms. iPhones, iPads, and other smart gadgets are the center of the next generation work forces eco-system. Why in the world would an employee want to ditch his iPad to haul around a 40 lb quasi laptop that takes 30 minutes to boot? Bottom line is they don’t. This is yielding headaches for IT departments everywhere, however resisting conformity will lead to lost talent and limited capability.
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  • Social 3.0 – Search and CRM : Social Media is here to stay, it really isn’t even diverse from media anymore. However, the way it is being used is continuing to evolved at breakneck speed. People and organizations are no longer searching the web for factual data, but they are also searching for what their friends and colleagues are recommending. This is Social 3.0 where the web tells us the facts and what our connections like via a legacy method like search. Google embraced this first and Bing is now entering a partnership with Facebook that will further this process. Organizations will add this to their decision process as they will leverage this capability to seek the input of influencers.
    To capture, track, store, and utilize the raw data, Social CRM will further revolutionize how we interact with the web to better the workplace. All of the major players like Microsoft, Cisco, Salesforce, and SAP are integrating social into their platforms. It is becoming inherent in the way we work and live, why wouldn’t it be part of the way we manage relationships for business?
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  • Unified Communications (UC): The phrase that everyone says and no one understands…Unified Communications as a practice was developed to capture the vast silos of communication and bring them into a single platform. This includes messaging, video, voice, email, social media, and in some cases even virtualized apps/computing. The solutions for this type of integration are still complex but with the aforementioned expectations and the fact that people can do voice, messaging, video, and email from a single platform via google apps, the expectation from the CI’s customers are going to quickly escalate.
    To further proliferate the rapid development of UC, technology companies will leverage the cloud to deliver these solutions the way people now want to consume them. This will allow enterprise unified communications to be delivered to smaller organizations with smaller out of pocket investments. The demand for this among the workforce will continue to rise. Assuming they can chat, use voice and video, and applications for free with tools like Facebook and Google, employees are going to wonder why this cannot be done at work…and with good reason!

 
Sometimes as business owners and executives we watch change happen and we hope that we can wait it out. An often misguided belief that if we just hang in there long enough that these new trends will pass and things will go back to the way they were.

While this may have stood true with Neon Tennis Shoes and big hair, the trends above unfortunately do not have a finite date in which they will disappear. They will certainly evolve, but trust me, they will not reverse.

The movement toward faster, cooler transformative technology in the workplace is heating up. How are you preparing for the changes ahead?

Daniel Newman
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Daniel Newman

Founder and President at Broadsuite, Inc.
After 12 years of running technology companies including a CEO appointment at the age of 28, I traded the corner office for a chance to drive the discussion on how the digital economy is going to forever change the way business is done. I'm an MBA, adjunct business professor and 4x author of best-selling business books including "The Millennial CEO" and "The New Rules of Customer Engagement." Pianist, soccer fan, husband and father, not in that order. Oh and for work...I'm the co-founder of V3B [Broadsuite], a marketing firm specializing in the digital space, helping companies be found, seen and heard in a cluttered digital world.
Daniel Newman
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