Seven key trends which are shaping the workplace of the future

What will the future office look like?

Office of the future

The way we work is changing. Collaboration technologies are ushering in a next-generation workplace that is more productive, efficient, and delivers meaningful cost savings to organisations of all sizes across the globe.

With new, more advanced mobile devices giving employees the freedom to work from anywhere, these technologies will only continue to reshape the look and feel of the "office." Here are my top seven technology predictions for 2015 and beyond, that I believe will transform how we work now and in the future.

1. Globalising firms will rapidly adopt collaboration tools

Global expansion means working across time zones, borders and cultures. The future of business requires collaboration tools that extend business and defy distance and time. Ultimate success comes when organisations embrace individual collaborative preferences and build a culture of collaboration by accommodating a variety of tools from email, telephony, social media, video and content sharing.

In 2015, more tools that enable visual communication from people to content will help break down communication borders and enable more global success.

2. Integration, not just interoperability

Videoconferencing is altering business models, according to the white paper, "Revolutionising the Future Workplace" by futurist Jack Uldrich. It is quickly becoming one of the most used collaboration tools and is expected to overtake email as the preferred tool by 2016. But mass adoption does not happen unless it is made contextual to an end user's preferred work style.

Integrating collaboration technology, such as voice, video and content sharing tools, into communication systems, business applications and workflows will drive adoption. New technologies such as WebRTC, standards-based video, rich SDKs and a deeper understanding of unified communications applications, make this a reality. New industry-specific solutions – particularly in healthcare, government, financial services and retail – will increase the use and relevance of video this year.

3. The workspace itself will evolve

The workspace itself is changing significantly. To reduce real-estate space and related expenses, some companies are moving from rows of cubicles to more open workspaces and offering employees flexible work arrangements. As a result, we expect workplace innovation from a distance to define the future of working. New technology innovations, like noise cancellation, lighting adjustments and digital white-boarding, will support this transformation.

These technology innovations, coupled with a stronger desire for open collaboration, will render the current office-based workspace obsolete. More emphasis will be placed on connecting to anywhere, from anywhere, at any time.

4. The age of "supermobility"

In "Revolutionising the Future Workplace," Jack Uldrich predicts smartphones will grow to 2.4 billion units by 2018 – a ratio of six-to-one to PCs. In 2015, device-to-device communication will enable contextual-based collaboration. We are entering the age of "supermobility," in which mobile devices will provide all of the tools and technology that employees need to be productive on the go, including voice, video and content collaboration solutions.

This supermobility, which will include more use of near field communications (NFC), Wi-Di, Ultrasonic and other wireless technologies, will give mobile device users easier and more secure access to an enterprise's visual collaboration tools.

5. SMBs to accelerate the use of cloud-based collaboration

Fuelled by the evolution of mobility and the cloud, subscription-based services provide organisations with the ability to collaborate and achieve more. More than ever, large-scale movement of small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to cloud-based VoIP, video and content sharing services will grow.

Traditional PSTN infrastructure is becoming outdated, and with a regulatory mandate to move all voice services off of the PSTN within the next five years, cloud-based voice, video and content use will rise dramatically. New applications and capabilities that were previously hard to get in the traditional premise-based world will become much easier to deploy with these cloud-based collaboration services.

6. Browser-based collaboration solutions

Companies looking for simple and effective communications will turn to the web browser in 2015. Enabled by WebRTC, companies globally will come to depend more on the browser to perform communication functions within work streams. Simplicity will ultimately rule this change, as more businesses look to make video an easy to use option.

WebRTC will continue to gain traction in 2015, but will remain basic, meaning any advanced functionality will still require an enterprise solution. We believe 2016 will offer even greater adoption.

7. Meetings as you know them are changing for the better

Meetings are changing because technology continues to foster new ways to communicate. Better quality and easier to use collaboration solutions are making it feel as natural as being there – so users have a common experience regardless of their location or device. Video conferencing solutions will also easily connect to third-party audio services, such as Skype for Business (Microsoft Lync), increasing business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) communications.

Expect 2015 to be a signature year for advancement of collaboration tools around the globe. With work environments shifting from traditional to more advanced collaboration environments, more employees will look to their employers for flexible yet productive "offices" to conduct work from wherever they choose.

Video collaboration is eliminating the distance between locations and the barriers to communication with as-good-as-being-there experiences. The workplace is changing for the better, and we expect visual communications to be one of the biggest catalysts in next-generation team collaboration.

  • Tim Stone is VP Marketing EMEA at Polycom

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