The digital workplace is a concept that has evolved during the course of the pandemic and our post-pandemic world. Working models are now adapting to “the new normal” and attitudes towards remote and hybrid working have shifted.
So, what’s changed and what will stay changed?
With Lea Sellers moderating, the speakers of this roundtable debate are:
- Allan Walters, IT Mobilization Director, Pinnacle Group ltd
- Don Lovett, Owner / Founder, ProjectBits Consulting
The concept of the digital workplace
Moderator Lea Sellers began the roundtable debate by asking the speakers about their concept of the workplace. “Is this the new normal or will it revert?”, she said.
IT Mobilization Director at Pinnacle Group ltd, Allan Walters, said: “From my own experience, it’s definitely going to be hybrid”. Based on his interactions with other businesses in different sectors, Allan believes that they are still readjusting to the lockdown restrictions being removed.
On the other hand, he highlighted the benefits of working from home and how employees can use their time accordingly. The rules are different for other more IT-based roles. “I need to be visiting multiple sites. I can’t just do it all by telecommuting from a PC”, said Allan.
Regional Director at the Government Blockchain Association, Don Lovett, believes we are continuing to transition into better experiences. While some people are comfortable with change, he added, others are challenged. “There are widespread reports of Zoom fatigue”, he said. In the last few months, Don has seen more people revert to phone calls rather than attending web conferences.
Don also highlights the rising difficulty of measuring performance, teamwork and engagement overall. He asked the panel: “How do you manage or participate in remote teams?” His view is that different people in a variety of organizations are still “evolving” to some new practices and are revisiting things that may have worked for them in the past.
When delving into the topic of interactions in the workplace becoming digitized, Lea recalled a previous roundtable. “Somebody said ‘when I saw people for real, I realized that two of my staff were pregnant!’”.
In response, Allan stated: “A virtual watercooler (moment) just doesn’t have the same vibe”. You don’t have those moments where you bump into a colleague and have a quick discussion. He went on to say that, in this digital age, you have to be “structured and conscious” about making those interactions. “It does require a little bit more effort to engage digitally”, he remarked.
The industry’s vision of the digital workplace
“I don’t think you want to be in the commercial real estate business right now”, said Don. He thinks that the industry is going to see some structural repositioning and modification as organizations attempt to lower their physical footprint in the office space.
“I think there are gonna be some winners and losers depending on the industry”, he said. He asked the panel to look at what is taking place in transportation. People are discouraged from coming back to work due to the doubling of the overall price. Don argued that the economics are changing along with post-covid-19 structural changes.
Lea raises the problem of large “glitzy” office buildings that are virtually empty.
Allan agreed with Lea’s view that the increase of empty office spaces has become a problem. However, he suggested that it could provide organizations with an opportunity. “They could potentially liquidate or sub-let that building. They have an opportunity to release the asset at the cost of maintaining it”, he said.
“I think we’re going to see a more rampant adoption of things like virtual reality because of remote work”, said Don. He talks about the practices being adopted by federal agencies like the Veterans Administration. “They’re doing practice surgeries in holographic environments that allow people to perform better when they get to the real thing”, he said. Don thinks that holographic, virtual reality and metaverse experiences will become more common in the business world.
The Happiness Index
“There’s a lot of talk about talent drain and talent retention, the great resignation particularly of young people”. Lea puts forward the question: “Will a well constructed vision of the digital workplace help stem this?”.
Don believes that people aren’t happy. Drawing his ideas from the Happiness Index, he said: “You just get the sense that people are challenged right now”. He added that there are portions of the US population who are exiting the workforce for a variety of good reasons. “I think you’re going to see people take more control of their own economic prosperity and the tooling skills, knowledge that they acquire to be able to participate in advanced capabilities”, he said.
What improvements can technology bring?
“Automations, through machine learning in particular, have a big benefit to be delivered in the world of cybersecurity”, said Allan. He went on to reiterate that cybersecurity is becoming the focus and problem for businesses. “It’s not a question of if you’ll get hacked or breached”, he said, “it’s when”. IT professionals need tool sets in order to react quickly to a breach and minimize any damage caused.
Don believes that technology can improve the quality of life both at home and work. “A family with a newborn child will be able to see the child grow up because they’re able to work from home a higher portion of the time”, he said.
This roundtable was recorded at The Studio.