Creating a Natural Workplace
By Jeff Rodman, Co-founder and Chief Evangelist Polycom, Inc.
On a recent visit to Asia Pacific, I had the good fortune of spending time with business leaders in Australia, India, and Singapore. We discussed digital transformation, innovation, and the sweeping changes that companies of all sizes are seeing inside their workplaces: changes driven by the globalization of commerce and enabled by the rapid acceleration of technology. In Australia, the pressing need for transformational change is a common issue shared by many companies. This is not surprising, when you consider that a major focus of their government and its Innovation Agenda is identifying new ways to accelerate economic growth. In India, the focus was on start-ups and their Government’s digital agenda which has contributed to India becoming the world’s third largest technology startup hub. In Singapore, the spotlight was on Government backed initiatives like flexible working and how it can enhance productivity while also improving Singaporean work/life balance.
With this influx of technology and connectivity, it’s undeniable that workplaces are moving from the traditional idea of what most of us know as ‘the office’ and this is accelerating worldwide. One of the major effects of this change in the workplace is paradoxical in a way, because it’s also one of the major causes: it represents a migration from artificial, made-up and often inefficient workplaces to natural ones that free people to excel at what they do, independent of their location.
Let’s explore this in more detail.
Redesigning the Traditional Office
There used to be a time when a person’s career path or seniority in an organization could be tracked by their progression from cubicle to private office. But the way we work today is different – organizations are actively creating more open, more natural, and agile workplaces to foster teamwork and collaboration to thrive. So, the focus of workplace design today is to serve and connect people rather than merely to contain them.
Workplace transformation includes fragmentation of the typical design and layout templates of offices, cubicles, and conference rooms into a vigorous diversity of working environments. There are individual workplaces, where we don’t need to have anyone physically nearby (although we can, but we just don’t need them for the task of the moment) and there are group workplaces, where having more people right next to us is a part of the experience. In either case, we can be collaborating with other people in multiple locations from different choice of devices.
Each kind of workspace has its advantages, but one of the challenges added by open-office and open-group settings is that extraneous noise and distractions increase as partitions are lost and the spaces are opened up. It’s for this reason that work-place innovations are needed that prioritize the user’s experience and this can mean developing new technologies to restore a worker’s quieter and more productive personal environment even when they’re sitting in a busy open area. Once this has been addressed, the worker is once again free to concentrate, whether the choice of work location is a modern open-plan office or local coffee shop.
Individual workspaces have been shifting from the old-fashioned private office to partitioned open spaces like cubicles, and more recently to fully agile workspaces
The Rise of Small Group Collaboration
As we see, individual workspaces have been shifting from the old-fashioned private office to partitioned open spaces like cubicles, and more recently to fully agile workspaces. In recognition of these changes, we’ve also seen a number of collaboration innovations come to market, such as powerful personal and small-group video solutions and noise cancelling technologies, which are especially valuable in isolating personal interactions and collaborations from the often-distracting places they occur.
I just mentioned the small group; what’s happening in group workplaces is interesting, but it’s a little more subtle in its way. For many decades, groups have gathered in a conference room, most often with a long table running down the middle of a rectangular space and people seated along both sides – often, with the boss or supervisor looming at the end of the table in the ‘power seat.’ This has become a kind of standard for many video conference rooms because the camera is often mounted directly opposite that power seat so it sees the boss best. Unfortunately, this staging is not conducive to group collaboration, because when participants sit in lines, it’s harder for each of them to hear or see anyone but their direct neighbors.
One remedial trend emerging is that on average, conference rooms are getting smaller, as companies take advantage of distributed workplaces and link together more smaller groups by taking advantage of interactive collaboration technology, including voice, visual imaging, and data. Over the next few years, advanced audio, video, and collaboration products, and services will make their way into millions of these smaller meeting rooms (now commonly known as huddle rooms) and into open collaboration environments, making these spaces newly valuable hubs for collaboration. One consequence of this increased usage is that the technology in these areas should support its users’ productivity by providing a high standard of audio and video to enable natural collaboration, both for onsite and remote participants.
Wainhouse Research estimates that there are 30-50 million huddle rooms (defined as a space for 6 or less attendees) around the world. These spaces will play an increasingly important role in group collaborations, and they represent enormous potential for organizations of all sizes.
Providing Flexibility in the Workplace
Polycom recently commissioned a global survey on Anywhere Working that asked whether we still need to go to work to get the job done. Spanning 12 countries and more than 25,000 respondents, the survey found three major flexible working trends that were commonly shared and worth mentioning. Being able to work from anywhere is believed to boost performance, with 98 percent of all respondents believing that flexible working has a positive impact on productivity. Encouragingly, almost two thirds (62 percent) of the global working population are currently taking advantage of flexible working practices. Findings also showed that 91 percent of respondents believe video collaboration helps improve workplace relationships and teamwork.
I believe that when a workforce has provided the flexibility to work how and where they feel most effective, it brings creativity and natural communication back into focus. So whether it’s from an armchair or from a standing desk, an agile and flexible workplace becomes about creating the right environment for individuals and teams to work together in order to deliver great results. Incorporating the right technology will provide the seamless communication experience which people in any workplace ultimately require for effectiveness and productivity.Big Ideas from Small Spaces I’ve often been quoted as saying that there’s a big advantage in starting small – in fact, the company I co-founded first established roots in a San Francisco basement back in 1990!
What we’ve demonstrated, as have many others, is that big ideas can grow from small spaces merely by providing the flexibility and tools for people to connect, share, and come together as teams. As office configurations evolve to meet specific needs, perhaps the desire for that pointless old corner office will fade. After all, no space is too small for great ideas and teamwork to happen!
Polycom, Inc. (NASDAQ:PLCM) offers solutions for voice, video, and content sharing and a line of support and service solutions. It offers various products and solutions, which include UC Group Systems, UC Platform, and UC Personal Devices.