For many organisations, the coming months mark uncharted territory. As plans continue afoot to revive the economy, company leaders have been poring over the implementation of hybrid working strategies. Twitter embraced the ‘wfh’ lifestyle, telling staff that they could stick to their home offices ‘forever’ should they wish, Google has told its employees that they can apply to work from home overseas for more than 14 days a year, whilst Amazon plans to return to an ‘office-centric culture’ from July. These cases reflect a vast spectrum of approaches from some of the world’s biggest companies, and at MTM we are conscious that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for employees across the sectors in which we work. Looking forward, our own approach will balance the desire of many to work creatively and collaboratively together in the office environment on occasions, as well as allowing staff to continue to reap the lifestyle benefits of a more flexible policy that includes home working.
What this host of new working approaches will undoubtedly give rise to is technological innovation, set out to provide solutions to people’s varied and changing needs. We’ve decided to take a look at three new lifestyle shifts that have already arisen, and the developments across tech – hardware and software – that might help to provide meaningful solutions to these challenges.
1. MULTIPLE WORK LOCATIONS
Many employees will continue to work across different spaces for years to come. Bedrooms, central London offices, suburban shared workspaces, and Bali beach bars will likely compose a more balanced mix of people’s work surroundings. For workers seeking out a range of possibilities, they are going to have to wrestle with consistent, efficient and secure access to information.
Fortunately, a wealth of cloud innovation is broadening opportunities all the time. One of the most relevant and exciting developments in the context of remote working is Workstation as a Service (WaaS). It has been the norm for employees to be able to only use a company laptop’s full capabilities when on a dedicated premise – with limitations on access to servers, workstations and software. However, WaaS is a type of desktop that gives employees full access to information and office applications at any time, from any device, allowing them to roam freely across working spaces and countries whilst remaining entirely connected to everything they need. We expect to see a huge growth in companies investing in this type of cloud application as they help staff to seek out a more harmonious work-life balance.
2. FLEXIBLE WORK DAYS
Gone are the days of a straight 9-5 working day with the opportunity to fully disconnect, switch off and down tools at the end of the day until the next morning. Instead, home working brings with it the inevitable creep of work into unsociable hours of the day. This need not always have negative connotations, as flexible working policies will increasingly allow staff to prioritise daytime childcare hours in-lieu of some evening working, or even just to fit some mid-morning exercise into a busy day. What this means is much more segmented working days, with workers picking up and putting down their laptop with much greater frequency to break up the day. This requires technology that is rapidly responsive, as well as ideally providing seamless transition between work and personal commitments.
Apple’s new M1 chip is arguably the innovation that facilitates this cultural shift. It replaces the long-trusted Intel CPUs that have powered Apple computers since 2006, bringing with it speeds up to 3.5 times faster than previous models, and outperforming 98% of PC laptops sold from 2019 to 2020. Moreover, this change means that Macs and iPhones now share similar fundamental technologies allowing Macs to run the same software as iPhones. The adoption of iPhone technology means that Apple computers can now mimic some of the behaviours we have come to expect from phones – for example instant wake-up, and running coolly and quietly. This means that work laptops can be more ‘on the go’ than ever, allowing workers to switch effortlessly between their work and personal lives and return to their work in a flash.
3. A NEW FORM OF VOICE TECHNOLOGY
Voice technology has yet to fully infiltrate the workplace or find mainstream uptake for work purposes. It has most commonly found usage as part of entertainment systems and a few other key uses in the smart home ecosystem, but as yet organisations have largely struggled to find purposes for voice for their employees. However, as the future of work leads us to spend more time around our smart speakers at home, they will be expected to perform dual roles, and even to provide us with the in-person companionship that we lack on those days not spent at the office.
The race is already on to provide meaningful voice technology in work contexts. Microsoft has shifted the positioning of its Cortana assistant to an office assistant rather than more general use, and its acquisition of speech-recognition firm Nuance for $19.7bn is a clear demonstration of intent to get ahead of its competitors in settings as varied as banking, manufacturing and healthcare. In the context of home speakers, users will want to optimise their usage for work purposes. This will require heightened consideration of aspects like security and data sharing. Voice software developers may want to consider different wake up words to enable personal and business log-ins, an integrated relationship between speakers and employees’ work machines that allow them to send emails and files instantly using voice, and a more advanced and automated in-meeting transcription service to keep meeting minutes. We should not expect any of these developments to be long in the making as our homes become our offices and our portable devices become our workstations.
Technology will be the key to shaping our professional futures as we navigate these new ways of working. MTM’s work is at the forefront of thinking about how tech will influence our lives in a post-covid society. If you are interested in learning more about any of the aspects discussed in this piece, or any of MTM’s services more generally, then please reach out to a member of the team.