In recent years, the office workspace has seen a fundamental transformation. It has become digitised, more intelligent, and more flexible – the workspace may not even be located in an office anymore. New technologies have enabled new workstyles with previously unknown levels of efficiency, speed, and convenience – but they have also created demand for new skills.
The evolution of work is a story of uncluttering, driven by digitisation. Practically everything that made up a traditional office environment twenty years ago has gone digital. All the items and devices that used to clutter an employee's desk – telephone (opens in new tab), fax machine (opens in new tab), printer (opens in new tab), calendar (opens in new tab), notebook (opens in new tab), post-it notes (opens in new tab), etc. – have morphed into apps, while the framed photograph on the desk lives on as the smartphone homescreen picture.
Ultimately, the desktop itself has been replaced by a digital workspace located in the cloud. Via notebook, smartphone, or tablet computer, it is accessible from anywhere, anytime without requiring the traditional – and cumbersome – commute to the office.
Sherif Seddik is the Senior Vice President and Managing Director EMEA at Citrix.
The evolution of smart
The most recent evolutionary stage has made this digital workspace smarter. Today’s state-of-the-art intelligent workspace uses machine learning (opens in new tab) and artificial intelligence (opens in new tab) to prioritise tasks according to their importance or urgency. In addition, it surfaces the bits of information the user needs at the time – and it condenses the task at hand to just the necessary step, such as agreeing to a web conference or approving a request.
This cuts out the time-consuming hassle of having to open a full-blown business application just for a simple mouse click on the "OK" button. Some tasks, such as adding appointments to the calendar, can even be fully automated. This way, the intelligent workspace considerably speeds up business processes, maximising productivity while minimising time-consuming routine.
One aspect of this evolution, however, is often overlooked: the human side. In the workplace of the future, work will become more personal as fifty percent of the workforce will be remote – and the next generation of workers will expect more meaning and autonomy. While digital technology opens up new levels of efficiency, speed, and productivity (opens in new tab), it also requires us to update the way we think, plan, work, communicate, and collaborate.
For example, the automation of routine tasks means that these steps will vanish from our schedule, enabling us to focus on the more intricate, more problematic cases that can‘t be solved by a simple click on the "OK" button. This, however, requires a different mindset – less "if A, then B" mentality, more problem-solving skills, more open-minded thinking along the lines of, "if A goes wrong, what can be done about it, what resources do I need, how fast can I fix this?" Diligent task completion, once the key requirement for many jobs, suddenly turns into just one capability among many.
This means that digitisation can only increase productivity to the extent that employees master the new technologies. This requires a willingness to deal with technological innovation, while increasing the importance of social skills. For example, today's digital workspaces enable instant online collaboration (opens in new tab). Yet workers only profit from this if they are willing to collaborate at a very short notice – and often across teams, companies, time zones, languages, and cultures.
This requires scheduling flexibility, digital literacy (such as multimedia presentation skills), plus intercultural communication and team-building skills. In this new world of work, employees tend to be members of various teams at once, frequently with different roles, which requires a higher level of interdisciplinary thinking. So employees must be open for acquiring new know-how.
This need to never stop learning affects all worker generations. Young talents bring some critical skills to the workplace, most notably digital literacy, but may have room for improvement in interdisciplinary capabilities, while experienced workers, depending on their previous role, might have to expand existing know-how or master completely new challenges. In both cases, an open mind for life-long learning is a must.
For this reason, intelligent workspaces should provide easy access to collaboration tools and knowledge bases to support workers in their continuous growth. Luckily, most people want to be flexible and productive – and they enjoy the broader scope that comes with an increase of know-how and skills.
The future is automated
To summarise, intelligent workspaces play a critical role for business success. They enable employees to work faster and more efficiently while allowing them to focus on important tasks instead of being bogged down by mind-numbing routine.
However, this workspace transformation will only be successful if technological progress is complemented by employees with an open mind and a willingness to keep expanding their skill sets. Business and IT leaders, having enabled a new way of work via digitisation, must now empower a new wave of workers. The uncluttered workspace needs uncluttered minds.
Sherif Seddik is the Senior Vice President and Managing Director EMEA at Citrix (opens in new tab).
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