The integration of technology into the workplace is a trend accelerated, in many ways, by changes that required adaptation in the year 2020. These changes required many employees and employers alike to transition quickly to remote workspaces and virtual communication, regardless of industry.
These technological improvements to the modern office environment have contributed to an increasingly digital world. To keep up with the pace of technology as it continues to define modern business, many companies have begun integrating many of the below trends into their regular operations.
Touchless Offices and IoT Technology
For many workplaces, a rise in the use of technology often means more touchless technology — any device that an individual can use without needing to touch it. These include pieces of technology with gesture-based controls, which you can operate simply by moving your hands in a certain direction or pattern.
Many companies that integrate touchless technology do so for security purposes. Touchless verification can be accomplished through proximity-based devices, which automatically unlock once employees arrive at work. Other security-minded touchless technology is operated through facial recognition, voice commands, and eye-tracking.
Another type of technology defining the modern workplace, IoT devices create a network out of everyday objects. IoT technology in the workplace can include simple fixtures like lighting or vending machines, all the way to advanced communication and devices that integrate with a company’s analytics and data.
“As a Service” Models and Subscription Style Contracts
Modern workplace technology trends have also influenced how businesses pay for necessary programs. The “as a service” contract model allows a company to pay only for technology-based services it needs.
Many companies prefer the “as a service” pricing model because of the flexibility it affords. Specific pricing models can include:
- IaaS (infrastructure as a service), where a company receives access only to an infrastructure;
- PaaS (platform as a service), where a company receives access to an entire platform, comprised of both the infrastructure and any applications required for efficient use;
- SaaS (software as a service), where a company receives a complete software program, ready for use out of the box.
In other instances, companies make use of BaaS (backend as a service) programs, a cloud-based model that allows them to outsource all backend software maintenance. This means that a company only maintains responsibility for the frontend aspects of the software they’re using, saving them time and allowing them to focus on product quality and customer satisfaction.
Remote access software and technical support are among the most popular “as a service” products, since companies generally only want to pay for those services when they are required. As long as an employee’s computer has reliable internet access, remote access software allows a technician to connect remotely to the device and offer help.
Remote device connectivity — offered “as a service” from reliable technical support providers, allow employees to work comfortably from home and access support from any device, at any location.
Many companies also trust RMM — remote monitoring and management — services to cut costs and remain proactive against technical errors. Employees can access world-class technical support whenever necessary, and employers are notified in real-time about potential technical issues.
The best remote monitoring and management software allows companies to promote efficient company-wide time management practices, and address any technical problems before they escalate.
Cloud technology has quickly become a pillar for many remote companies. Employees of all levels can store documents, use software, access servers, and interact with tools through cloud computing. Resources are securely stored online, where you can access all the files you need in seconds.
Employee interaction is also improved through the use of cloud technology, through platforms that allow for secure file transfer, dashboard sharing, and other networking.
Collaboration and Communication Technology
While cloud technology helps improve employee task-sharing, it doesn’t always serve as a viable communication platform. Fortunately, improvements in collaboration and communication technologies mean that you can work effectively alongside coworkers from a remote environment.
Some companies look to consolidate their technology “stack” — the list of technologies used to fulfill a task. When this is the case, all-in-one online platforms allow employees to communicate professionally daily. These tools and others house all employee communication in task-specific online workspaces, keeping conversations and files coordinated.
Other companies use tools that specialize in employee communication and collaboration. These platforms integrate with employee workspaces and allow teams to communicate much like they would in person. Tools like Slack and Google Chat allow users to send messages and share files whenever necessary.
Many of the best collaboration and communication tools also integrate well with teleconferencing tools, to allow for planned or impromptu voice or video calls between employees.
Machine Learning, AI, VR, and AR
Many companies are now using technology to automate tasks and enrich the customer experience, through programs that introduce new solutions into traditional workspaces.
Artificial intelligence (AI) programs help computers “think” like an employee, completing tasks with increased efficiency and fewer errors. From project management to task automation, AI can help businesses of virtually all sizes and services improve internal operations. For example, AI-powered assistants can help optimize an employee’s calendar, consolidate files, set task reminders, monitor inboxes, and clarify workflows.
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) also have a place in a modern work environment, especially for companies that offer cutting-edge technology services. For example, human resource departments can use augmented reality platforms to expedite the employee onboarding process, placing new hires into a remote work environment for training purposes. AR services specifically can help technical support staff quickly identify and solve issues that employees, or customers, might be having with their devices or purchased services.
BYOD, Remote Workforces, and Desk Management Tools
In an era where remote work is quickly becoming the norm, companies are seeking new ways to effectively manage employees working from home. This need is especially prevalent for companies operating with a BYOD — “bring your own device” — standard, where employees use personal devices for professional work.
Both in-office workspaces and at-home work environments alike are actively adapting to future technologies. The increased prevalence of technology in the workplace has created a parallel need for reliable IT solutions, to help employees at all levels address tech issues when they arise. Many companies with a large remote workforce trust a managed service provider (MSP), outsourcing IT infrastructure, tech support, and cybersecurity to specialists. Typically, MSP software falls into four distinct categories that help businesses thrive:
- Professional services automation (PSA) systems, offering packaged support software that governs business operations and supervision for technical staff;
- Remote monitoring and management (RMM) software, enabling a company’s IT professionals to monitor remote systems and employee workspaces;
- Remote access, allowing technicians to access computers, servers, and any other devices requiring support;
- Administration, offering accounting and team management programs to appropriate human resource departments.
Many companies will pair one or more of the above MSP tools with network discovery functions, to achieve a comprehensive overview of all systems that are a part of their network. Network discovery tools allow companies to take full inventory of every piece of their technology, from employee devices to online consumer touchpoints.
Mobile and 3D Printing
The ability to quickly generate and deploy brand materials makes both mobile and 3D printing essential for many modern businesses.
In an age where more employees are working remotely, mobile printing is often essential. Without the benefit of an in-office printer and fax machine, many employees rely on personal printers at home. While many at-home printers rely on direct, wired connections into a computer, a new wave of cloud-based printers allow employees to print any documents — from any device — via a web application or mobile app.
3D printing further helps businesses create efficient solutions in a variety of ways. Companies trust 3D printers to create spare parts, to serve as a substitute for an otherwise expensive replacement. Companies that offer architecture, modeling, or other design services can also use 3D design to create small-scale replicas of full-scale products. This allows customers to review designs before work on a final product begins.
Hybrid and Remote Work Capabilities
Companies are learning that many employees value remote work. Employees at all levels are enjoying the regularity of a work-from-home setting, without the need to spend time commuting to and from an office environment each day.
Despite the benefits that remote work can offer both a company and its employees — including increased employee productivity levels — many companies are understandably hesitant to offer employees permanent remote work. That’s why many companies favor the hybrid work model; employees spend some time working from home and some time working from an office, to balance freedom and accountability.
Hybrid work environments see employees transition between a remote and an in-office work environment. Employees enjoy the flexibility that comes with remote work, and the social aspects of an in-office environment, making a hybrid work environment an ideal solution for many businesses. Companies that use cloud technology can make it easy for employees to successfully use a hybrid work model, since they can access all necessary files from any location and device.
Security and Data Protection
Companies need to ensure that no matter where employees work, their data is protected. Most successful companies make network security a lasting priority, taking steps to safeguard all company devices, software, and servers.
The easiest way to secure corporate networks is through a program with a demonstrated history of comprehensive network protection. The best network security platforms help employers onboard new devices, prevent system overloads, and identify unauthorized devices which join their secured network.
Network security services also integrate well with data protection solutions, to keep user data, files, and all work safe no matter where and when they log in.
Environmental Sustainability and Energy Efficiency Tech
Sustainability-minded companies understand that integrating new technology can’t come at the price of the environment. Many companies take steps to make digital sustainability — leveraging digital technology to accomplish sustainability goals — a large part of their daily operations.
Sometimes, maintaining environmental sustainability means a focus on eco-friendly building materials. Smart building materials allow builders and companies to gauge how their building is performing, during and after construction. For example, some building materials will change colors or composition, depending on how temperature, voltage, or age affect them.
Other sustainable technologies regularly deployed by companies include environmentally-friendly energy storage, efficient office lighting, waste removal processes, and solar cells.