What will the 2020 work place look like? Rich Preece, vice-president and UK country manager at online accounting software firm Intuit, takes a look.
Cloud computing, digital and mobile technologies have started to transform businesses. Many of us now access documents from mobile devices, attend virtual meetings via teleconferencing and collaborate on tasks using social media. And all of this means we don't have to spend so much time chained to our desks. In fact, a whitepaper by Citrix Systems found that 72 per cent of UK employers are providing or expanding telework options. This focus on mobile and flexible working is happening across the board, from sales people and tradesmen using tablets in the field to business owners bookkeeping on their smartphones on the way home. But with technology constantly evolving, what will the workplace of the future look like for SMEs and how will this play out across different areas of the business?
We've already seen how consumer technology has been brought into the realms of business with the Bring Your Own Device phenomenon. The lines between our personal and business lives are continuously blurring and this is only set to continue into 2020 and beyond. According to Kinvey, half of employers will require that employees use their own devices for work purposes by 2017.
In a back office capacity, you can manage your books and instantly pull up cash flow figures wherever you are. This means you can access your finances on the move at any given time and make updates in real-time. Some of the most forward-thinking SMEs are already doing this via mobile phones and tablets, but we could even see this go one step further with wearables. Imagine being able to do this via a smart watch or using Google Glass.
When it comes to physical work spaces, in 2020 cars might be the new meeting room. For example, Regus envisions commuters of the future working in self-driving cars, where front seats can swivel round to create a four-person meeting space.
The design of the work space itself could also undergo radical change. From fresh air pumped into air con units to healthy snacks and water being automatically provided at regular intervals - all this could help drive productivity, efficiency and staff satisfaction.
Change could be seen right down to the network. Collaboration platform firm Huddle thinks that "work networks" will die out as firms shift to cloud-based systems. This process is already in motion as many SMEs in particular are realising the cost benefits and efficiency gains of working in the cloud, from managing customers in Sales Force to managing your finances online. This also allows greater collaboration. For example, you can work with your accountant to update and instantly access the books via the cloud. You can query invoices or payments processes and get answers in real-time. This helps take the pain out of financial management, allowing SMEs to focus on more strategic tasks and growing their businesses.
All these technologies enable remote working and businesses are already realising the benefits of having greater flexibility in the workplace. For example, 80 per cent of managers surveyed in an IBM study agreed that flexible working improved productivity. What's more, SMEs can actually save money by adopting this approach. A study by Telework Research Network found that if those with compatible jobs telecommuted for just two days a week, employers could save over £3,000 a year.
This approach to work is only set to rise as we become more mobile in future. The possibilities are endless. Whether it's wearable technology, a bigger move to the cloud or redesigning the office space to encourage a more collaborative workforce, technology really has the power to fuel the future of business and transform the work environment.