The future of work: 10 workplace tech trends SMEs need to know and understand

Savvy entrepreneurs know the workplace is changing. Technology is making it easier to work on the road, blending the concept of work/life balance into obscurity.

And that means smart businesses need to be aware of how to make their companies survive.

A new report from Intel, called The Future of Knowledge Work, predicts several trends that are set to occur within the workplace in the next 15 years.

“By 2025 the explosion in world population, automobile ownership, and urbanization trends will make physical travel more complex and time consuming.”

“In contrast, technology will continue to shrink, disappearing into the fabric of our life, eventually becoming so small that it will be embedded in our clothes and environment.”

This has huge ramifications for the workplace.

Here are 10 of the most interesting trends – and have analysed what SMEs need to know about the businesses of tomorrow:

1. Everything will be connected

There’s no question computers are getting smaller – your phone can do more than your old IBM PC back in the 1980s. But as the report points out, by 2020 it’s estimated there’ll be over 50 billion devices connected to the internet.

Everyone will have access to “a myriad of devices on a daily basis”, with cloud computing become the norm. This means you can automate parts of your life through the internet that you can’t already.

“Imagine an automated message from home adding milk to the shopping list because the refrigerator recognized that the carton was almost empty,” the report says.

Laugh all you want, but in 20 years you’ll probably be doing this regularly.

2. More flexibility in individual roles

As technology changes and mobility is emphasised in the workplace, employees will change their expectations. As the report says, they will want more flexibility in the scheduled times they need to actually work.

And that doesn’t necessarily mean where they work, either. It also means flexibility in the type of role they have.

“The definition of an employee may also change significantly as knowledge workers desire to bounce part time between traditional corporate roles, cultivation of entrepreneurial opportunities, pursuit of societal contributions and leisure activities.”

“Employees may request, and in some cases expect, all manner of flexible schedules to accommodate their lifestyles.”

Here’s the critical point – progressive employers, the report says, will be the first to notice this trend and make their workplaces as flexible as possible. They will attract the best employees.

3. Corporate customisation

This next point is connected to that. As technology becomes more critical in the workplace, employees will seek personalisation. They will want their employers to recognise their personalities, their wants, their needs, and then offer them benefits based on that.

Of course, that’s going to disrupt the traditional way companies hire. But the key point, the report says, is that if you can offer employees a more customised employment deal, they’re going to work harder.

Productivity will be highest by those employers who find innovative techniques to unify the multi-generational, multi-national workforce in pursuit of organisational objectives.

4. Siri will become more powerful

That customisation plays its way into personal lives as well, the report says. Services like Apple’s Siri won’t just respond to requests – they’ll analyse our habits and then act on our behalf.

“Frequent incidents of delight will ultimately lead to moments of unexpected surprise.”

“Like a life coach, these agents could provide an understanding for how time is spent, remember social interactions, recall frequent activities, and then help us understand the expenditure of finances.”

5. Constant access to the internet will disrupt your business plan

The teenagers of today will soon be joining the workforce, and won’t see any divide between work and their personal lives. That also means they’ll want access to internet services while on the job – and this report says you need to be ready for that.

It’s called “servicification”, the need to integrate or enable access to consumer services while at work.

“The trend will resemble the corporate consumerisation transition that occurred with smartphones and tablets, but the impact will be much more expedited and disruptive for IT organizations.”

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