How innovation is shaping the future of work

How innovation is shaping the future of work
December 14, 2021
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Having a hybrid workforce can make cohesion and effective communication problematic.

Meetings are a prime example. In a pre-Covid world we relied on conference rooms. During lockdown we saw everyone dialing in remotely to video conferences.

But what does a hybrid conference room look like?

With existing technologies designed for either fully on-site teams or fully remote workers, hybrid teams have to cobble together collaboration solutions. But perhaps not for long.

The technological gap hybrid teams experience is rapidly being filled by emerging technologies and — more frequently — tech that isn’t new but has been rethought to create solutions to hybrid working problems.

Virtual reality

Savvy innovators have taken advantage of recent advances made in VR technology to create solutions for hybrid and remote-first teams.

As Oculus would say, sometimes you just need to get in the same room, even when you’re miles apart.

Virtual reality is fully capable of scanning your workspace — and you — into a virtual reality that can be occupied and experienced by all members of your team.

Whether your team members are in a conference room, sitting at individual desks, working from home, at your favorite cafe, or a combination, everyone experiences a single, virtual room. The team interacts and sees each other virtually through a simple headset.

VR is opening up a new realm of possibilities, giving workers a more engaging, interactive, and memorable working experience, regardless of location. Unsurprisingly, Microsoft is at the forefront of this new wave of VR with Microsoft Mesh.

Spatial chat app

After the pandemic led to the failure of their original startup, the folks at Wonder started thinking about what people really needed in the face of the new world order. While online group chats are a long-established and handy tool, it’s not yet possible to physically meet online.

This robs us of a seminal part of the meeting experience, leaving us inherently disconnected. To solve this, they created Wonder, a prototype browser-based spatial chat app.

They asked, “How do we make up for a lack of physical team connection?”, and answered with Wonder.

Simple but effective thinking like this will shape how we work in the future.

Rethinking online collaboration

Online team collaboration tools like Slack have been around for years. But they can be clumsy (particularly if misused) when you’re working as a hybrid unit. A handful of companies are looking to optimize this legacy technology for the hybrid era.

Zoho Cliq, Miro, Mural, and GitLab are all great examples of this type of ‘old into new’ thinking that’s seeing existing technology repurposed and refined specifically for the hybrid workplace.

Sustainable business travel

Travel solutions like TravelPerk are making business travel smoother and more sustainable. With real-time updates on COVID restrictions, travel safety advice, and information, you can ensure a simple, safe travel experience for your team, no matter where they are.

TravelPerk is also one of many companies embracing a new wave of sustainability initiatives, as it allows you to reduce your business’ carbon footprint. If you’re embarking on a carbon offset journey, TravelPerk allows you to offset 100% of your business travel carbon emissions.

Automated and AI office cleaning

The pandemic has certainly raised our awareness of the need for cleanliness in the workplace. Hybrid work means the specific times and days individuals are in the office are in flux, requiring a rethink of how office cleaning is managed.

Can we rely on a ‘clean your own space’ policy? Or employing an office cleaner for a space that’s no longer used as it once was?

Neither scenario is ideal. But new smart technology is emerging that includes AI, robotics, and automated systems to support cleaning staff, or even fully handle office cleaning needs.

Apps that utilize alert systems to notify cleaning staff that a meeting has ended, or a hot desk is no longer in use, are a simple means of utilizing this type of innovative technology.

A more comprehensive way is to turn to smart technologies and robotics to physically clean office environments instead of human workers. For example, automated robots that can hoover, and UV lighting that’s capable of disinfecting the surfaces in a room.

Smart buildings

An extension of the automation/AI thinking is the construction of buildings with the latest tech fully integrated from the ground up. Smart Buildings like those from Arup,which utilize 5G, the Internet of Things, and Building Information Modeling (BIM) to collect real-time data are allowing companies to make smarter decisions.

The result is buildings with efficient HVAC systems, cleaner air, and healthier working environments, all down to automated systems.

The ‘work from wherever’ mentality has huge benefits, but also makes it more challenging to help employees see the value of coming into the office.

Creating an environment that’s as clean and healthy as possible, while requiring as little effort as possible to maintain is crucial. Meanwhile, workplace sensors can be used to give team members a real-time view of office capacity before they decide to come into the office.

This effectively eliminates the fear of returning to the office and finding it impossible to practice social distancing or maintain comfort levels. It also enables real-time updates to be sent throughout the day to notify staff if occupancy reaches unsafe levels.

Final thoughts

We’re not quite sure yet what the future of work holds. It seems certain hybrid teams are the way forward, but precisely how these will function is still being determined. An existing technological gap is driving innovative new solutions that cater specifically to hybrid teams. It is these emerging innovations that will determine the shape of work to come.

The goal is to not only make hybrid work and remote first viable but better.