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The future of remote working

The future of remote working
(Image credit: Pixabay)

As we enter a new decade, we can take a moment to consider the trends that changed the way we live and work in 2019, from embracing flexible working policies and video conferencing technology to using AI in new and inventive ways within the workplace. Throughout 2020, we are likely to see these trends continue to evolve as well as some new trends emerging as a result. 

About the author

Anne Marie Ginn, Head of Video Collaboration, EMEA, Logitech.

More businesses will realise the benefits of remote working for reducing environmental impact 

A recent report from the Carbon Trust found that greater adoption of home working could save around 3 million tons of carbon emissions in the UK alone. With an increasing awareness about how our actions impact the environment, and how we can reduce and minimise our footprint on the earth, this means that more organisations are likely to start encouraging remote working for environmental reasons.

For instance, the city of San Antonio in the US has already called on businesses to authorise more flexible work schedules, encouraging employees to work a four day week to reduce their commute and improve air quality and reduce ozone damage in the city. Similarly, a recent law has been passed in the Philippines to allow employers in the private sector to offer remote working, enabling people to earn a living whilst not using valuable resources and energy to commute.

Employers will introduce policies and initiatives that prioritise purpose to attract and retain Gen Z employees 

Gen Z is set to comprise 36% of the workforce this year, and 65 million members of the generation are set to begin their professional lives in this decade. As a result, employers must understand the different ways that this generation work and ensure they are able to attract and retain them into the workforce, particularly in the midst of a skills gap in many sectors. To do so, companies are likely to appeal to Generation Z’s desire for a career with a purpose, rather than just a job, by investing in employee wellbeing, supporting environmental causes and being more accountable for their overall social footprint. 

Another key component of building a purposeful career path would be to encourage employees to pursue their personal passions outside of work. This means a stronger focus on flexible working and allowing employees to better balance work with other priorities.

Businesses will look for smarter ways to maximise office space and encourage flexible working

With only just over half (55%) of workspaces within offices occupied at any one time already, and with remote working expected to continue to grow in popularity, more organisations will be looking to maximise office spaces by moving to smaller offices or renting space in co-working spaces in multiple locations to accommodate the needs for flexibility of their employees. We are also likely to see more organisations renting parts of their office space to other businesses to better manage the ever-increasing rental and operational costs. 

This trend will also drive more work flexibility and will encourage remote working. Providing such flexibility will require investment into quality video conferencing systems and adequate meeting room space to encourage communication between remote teams, and equipping remote employees with tools such as webcams and tablet cases to work effectively at home or on the go. 

Using analytics to create smarter working spaces

In the next couple of years, we’ll see more organisations trying to create smarter work spaces by collecting data around how employees are currently using the office environment, and analysing it to understand how the layout, design and technology can be adapted and designed differently to optimise efficiency and make work more productive. 

Analytics company Spica, for example, helps financial organisations and other businesses to design and create smart workspaces through monitoring employees and analysing behavioural data. Using this data, organisations are able to understand how employees move around the office and how they work, and provide adequate office spaces which empower their employees to effortlessly interact with their office environment.

Increased popularity of co-working and co-living spaces

As the boundaries between home and work environments are blurring, there is a greater blending of personal and professional lives and co-living spaces offer an appealing, communal style of living and working for many millennial and Gen Z workers. 

Companies in the US have already embraced this trend - Pure House and Common have opened flat shares allowing residents to live and work under one roof, and WeWork launched a subsidiary, WeLive, which is opening communal living spaces in New York. Similar initiatives are now launching in the UK. For example, The Collective in London has just launched the world's biggest co-living development of 705 luxury rental flats in Canary Wharf, offering residents access to a sky bar, wellness zone, cinema, gym and a co-working space among other perks. 

With the expected increase in the number of gig workers, many of whom cite loneliness as one of the negative effects of working remotely, co-living and co-working spaces will become more popular as a way to  overcome this sense of loneliness or isolation.

Businesses will use existing technologies in smarter ways 

Technologies such as video conferencing systems and SaaS-based cloud platforms are no longer new for organisations, and many are already seeing the advantages of investment into these areas. According to research from Gartner, half of organisations now house their unified communications in the cloud. In particular, flexible working arrangements now rely on cloud-based access, and employees are empowered to work between offices, on the road and in shared hot-desking spaces by being able to connect to a common digital platform. This, coupled with advancements in video conferencing technology, make it easier to conduct virtual meetings from anywhere, any time as long as there is an internet connection. 

This year and beyond we’ll see wider adoption of cloud-based solutions for work collaboration and advanced video conferencing solutions that leverage AI, natural language processing (NLP) and computer vision to optimise the meeting experience and improve productivity. 

More businesses will experiment with VR, AR and holograms to enable more productive virtual meetings

VR and AR, as emerging technologies, are already starting to be adopted in certain workplace applications. Most of these applications are still specialist use cases, such as professional training, or 3D design. However, it's likely that we will see more experimentation in the future with VR and AR technologies in workplace collaborative applications in the year to come. For instance, calling colleagues for a meeting when working from home could be enhanced by using business VR headsets to see the team in the living room. AR can already be used today to augment attendee data in the meeting participants panel and in the not-too-distant future, we could imagine remote participants joining a virtual reality meeting space.

Holographic or 3D technologies may also have interesting applications in the future workplace, with great potential for enhancing virtual collaboration and workplace productivity. While this may still seem futuristic, holographic virtual assistants can already be seen at airports and shopping centres, so we are likely to see more applications of this technology to the workplace in the future.