The workplace has evolved throughout history, from workers being essentially tied to one location -- whether the field, factory or office -- to a growing number of "anywhere workers" who can work from wherever we want and whenever we want.
This "Third Office" is increasingly in demand. Indeed, 70% of people say having access to working remotely in some form is important to them and 30% say it increases their productivity. Organizations need to embrace this change and help their workers by implementing technologies which will allow them to work from anywhere.
Use what's already there
For any technology to be worth the investment, it needs to be easy to use and accessible to all your workers. This means, in turn, using technology that, as much as possible, workers are familiar with. Take smartphones, for instance, despite many years fighting against Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), most organizations have now accepted that workers of all ages will have and use their own device -- in fact, 85% of people in the UK now have a smartphone.
Embracing this technology and using apps to help employees work and communicate from anywhere at any time will be the easiest way to create the Third Office. As more and more people swap the sweaty commute for their home office, or elsewhere, how can you ensure that this approach works?
The traditional 'office job' may not be how most work nowadays, but the traditional office building is still alive and kicking. (Image: Matthew Henry, Unsplash)
Imagine you're using Messenger
With any form of communication, the most important factor to consider is whether workers will actually use it. If an application is complex or intrusive, workers are likely to abandon it in favor of their own personal preferences. Not only might this hurt productivity -- after all, how can you be sure all your workforce can communicate consistently with one another? -- it can also create a security issue as workers flock to tools that haven't been certified safe by the organisation.
From installing, to using, to updating, people are used to their communication and collaboration apps -- from Messenger to WhatsApp -- working without issues, and not needing extensive training to use. Organizations should ensure that their own applications mimic, as much as possible, the way in which consumer services work.
For instance, installation and set-up can and should be as simple as scanning a QR code; chat and email functions should mimic familiar consumer services; and even actions such as notifications and interrupting activity with a voice call should mimic the way other applications behave on the worker's Apple or Android device. With this in place, organizations can optimize and secure their applications -- knowing that workers are much less likely to stray to the alternatives.
Accommodate all of your employees
One popular misconception of the Third Office is that it's of most interest to younger employees -- and is a natural consequence of organizations evolving to meet the needs of youthful generations. However, much as anyone of any age has a smartphone, so any worker benefits from a more flexible working approach: whether Generation Z looking to maximize their productivity, millennials and Generation X looking to balance work and family commitments; or Baby Boomers nearing retirement who feel they have earned the right to reduce a draining commute.
Simplifying communications makes it easier for all of these workers to adopt to new ways of working without needing extensive adjustment and training -- and at the same time, reduces the time the IT needs to educate workers and support them during and after any changeover.
Remote workers are becoming more and more common, as the internet does away with things like location and time for work. (Image: Connor Limbocker, Unsplash)
A productive workplace
As smartphone and app usage continue to grow each day, organizations need to get ahead and not only incorporate them into the organization, but ensure that business use feels exactly the same as social use. This won't just help to keep your employees happy but will greatly increase productivity and even help with associated benefits -- for instance, with more remote and flexible workers, an organization could conceivably downsize from existing, expensive office space. Quite simply, a workforce that is happy with its tools is far more productive, and much less of a security risk, than one that's tempted to look elsewhere -- whatever their age.