Four workplace technology trends companies will leverage in 2019 to match the flexibility mobile workers have come to expect from every aspect of their lives and help foster engagement.
Mobile workers are here (or should I say, everywhere and anywhere, any time?) and they’re here to stay. In 2015, there were 96.2 million mobile workers in the U.S. By 2020, the number is expected to increase to 105.4 million, representing more than 72 percent of the country’s workforce. Baby boomers are retiring and new generations with different values, expectations, preferences, and ways of working are joining the workforce. Combined with the rise of the “Gig Economy” (professionals abandoning traditional 9-to-5 employment for contract opportunities), the new currency of the labor market is no longer stability. It’s mobility.
So how are businesses planning to attract and retain top talent from this changing workforce? Here are four important workplace technology trends we’ll see companies start to leverage in 2019 in an effort to not only match the flexibility and agility mobile workers have already come to expect from every other aspect of their lives but to also help foster engagement and stronger connections between fellow employees and their employers.
- Environmental sensors will be used to improve employee’s physical health and wellness and create more sustainable offices buildings
2018 saw more employers adopt alternative work programs as they recognized that they couldn’t just keep trying to put butts in seats for 8 hours a day, five days a week. Sedentary office lifestyles are not compatible with today’s mobile workforce, not to mention the potential negative impact on employee satisfaction, health, and wellbeing. So now, many employers are replacing the outdated office setting — the one where the boss was in a big corner office and the rest of the company worked from rows of beige cubicles and terrible hospital-like fluorescent lighting — with activity-based work environments and open floor plans. Employees are free to move around the office and choose the type of desk or workstation that suits what they’re working on, which boosts employee collaboration, satisfaction, productivity and of course, retention.
With companies getting serious about catering to mobile employees, we’ll start to see IoT environmental sensors enter the workplace this year. These smart devices will accurately monitor air quality, light, noise, and temperature around the office building to ensure it’s one that enables people to do their best, most productive work. For example, the use of environmental sensors can help companies prevent levels of CO2 from rising above 1,000 parts per million (ppm) — the level after which employees may start suffering from drowsiness, headaches, and sleepiness that lead up poor concentration, loss of attention, increased heart rate, and nausea.
In addition to happier, more productive employees, the benefits of implementing environmental sensors will come in the form of cost savings and energy efficiency for organizations. By integrating with Building Management Systems (BMS) and helping businesses meet WELL Building Standards, environmental sensors can help businesses achieve a 50 percent increase in cost efficiency including energy, maintenance, and other recurring costs. Moreover, the ability to harness occupancy and utilization insights will result in optimized real estate.
- Voice commands and smart assistants will make work lives easier
While still relatively new, voice assistants have improved greatly in recent years. You’ve probably used Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant by now to perform simple daily tasks, like looking up the weather or playing your favorite Spotify playlist. In fact, close to half of online adults are using speech or voice recognition technology. Is the enterprise ready for such devices?
In an enterprise workplace, smart (voice) assistants will require a microphone and a response mechanism (audio or visual) available to the employee at the time of need. The voice interaction will require simple, short commands with direct answers or results. Phones, and to a lesser extent desktop assistants like Microsoft Cortana, provide those technical requirements. In the past, those devices were not often integrated into office tools or building technology. However, newcomers in the market are bridging the gap between employee devices and the workplace experience (environmental data, collaboration and other use cases). Look for 2019 to introduce voice commands and smart assistants directly in the workplace infrastructure, as companies continue to strive to build out the “workplace of the future.”
- Intelligent kiosks, scheduling software, and navigation technology will enable “Smart Workspace” initiatives
Like smart cities that use technology to keep traffic flowing or to help drivers find an empty parking spot more quickly, IoT will be leveraged more frequently by companies with high traffic workspaces in 2019 to improve the experience of in-office employees. Mid-sized and enterprise-level companies will add intelligent kiosks, whether as fixed devices in the offices or via mobile phones, which allow their employees to quickly see if their teammates are collaborating in a shared workspace or a private conference room. Other companies may add team-finding and navigation technologies that allow employees to move around the office easier, leading to serendipitous moments of collaboration with cross-functional teams. The right implementation of scheduling software will also help more remote employees book work and meeting space on the go in order to collaborate and stay connected with their teams — no matter where anyone on the team is based.
- Companies will address privacy and security concerns around IoT and connected devices to gain a competitive advantage in the digital workspace
IT organizations are working on how to handle security risks that can inevitably arise with the 28.5 billion devices expected to be connected to the IoT by 2022. By beefing up their levels of cybersecurity protection and changing policy, they will be better prepared to benefit from the massive opportunities the IoT can bring them and their employees.
For instance, many IoT technologies can be secured through network isolation, scanning, and other practices. The IT organizations that can implement intelligent policies in 2019 will gain a competitive advantage that contributes to their bottom line and that attracts/retains more employees by making their work lives easier and more productive. Think facial recognition technology that allows an employee to clock in for the day by simply taking a selfie… or an employee being able to reserve their preferred workspace from their mobile device while on the way to work.
With U.S. unemployment rates at historic lows combined with an increasingly dynamic workforce and new definitions of “what is work?,” we will see continued increases in employee turnover rates, by way of increased spend with contracted or “Gig” resources and job hopping. This higher volume will continue to stress HR staff and systems integrations in all but the smallest of companies, causing a self-fulfilling need in the “Gig HR” market. Now is the time to embrace workplace technologies to give employers a much-needed competitive edge to better meet the needs of the up-and-coming generations of mobile employees.