What does the future of business have in store for the places where we work?
If the past few years are any indication, current innovations in workspace trends do not bode well for traditional office spaces, as businesses are realizing just how costly a poorly designed office space can be. In a survey that polled 10,000 people in the workforce, 85% said they were unhappy in their office environment, which made it difficult for them to concentrate on accomplishing tasks. Whether your office is parcelled into cubicles or features an open-floor concept design, the truth is that no single workspace type will work for everyone.
The challenge for businesses, therefore, is finding a way to accommodate the needs of everyone in their organization to ensure that people are in their optimal environment to be productive.
In 2020, the name of the game when it comes to workspace design is flexibility—even if this means bidding farewell to your current office arrangements. Flexible workplace benefits, such as work-from-home days, full-time telework positions, and the opportunity to work outside the traditional hours of 9-to-5 are setting the precedent for how employees will work in the new decade. In fact, one study found that nearly three-quarters (74%) of those surveyed would quit a job to work for a company that offers remote positions. The primary takeaway here is that employees strongly value the ability to define and create their own workspaces and schedules that fit into their personal and professional lives.
Even if the workforce wasn’t already moving toward telecommuting and remote employment, there’s a good chance that brick-and-mortar offices would still risk obsoletion. Technology—specifically internet-connected technology—has completely redefined the relationship between company and consumer. Today, even a small business can carve out its own corner of the internet, commanding an online audience that reaches far beyond its local community. The growth of the gig economy—which 40% of companies now believe will become an increasing amount of their workforce—makes it more common than ever for organizations to rely on freelancers and vendors around the world. Having a physical presence in an office is no longer as important to your business’ success as it may have once been.
With the demand for workspace flexibility present in both businesses and the people they employ, let’s look into some of the specific innovations that will shape our work environments.
Small Biz Buzz hosts @cnheuft and @robstevenson_23 are joined by guest Victoria Moyer as they talk about the growing trend of working remotely. Tune in for more. https://t.co/CHwisOqRMC pic.twitter.com/WdJsbfGJ0B— Keap (@KeapGrowing) February 6, 2020
Internet of Things
Based on its size and accessibility alone, the Internet of Things (or IoT) is projected to cause massive shifts in workspace design. As the total collection of devices presently connected to the internet, the IoT nebula already totals billions of devices all over the world and is growing at unprecedented rates. Present estimates report roughly 30 billion devices connected via IoT technology in 2020. In just five years, that number is targeted to more than double.
IoT boasts a variety of use cases, both in personal and professional settings. The same technology that triggers your bedside lamp to turn on at the sound of your morning alarm can be used to alert businesses when products that their customers have purchased develop a defect. As such, the potential for IoT to reinvigorate your workspace is only limited by your own ingenuity. Some businesses have replaced administrative tasks, such as keeping an inventory of office supplies, with IoT-paired devices, which can place orders autonomically as your stock runs low. Others still have used it to moderate office temperatures for a more cost-effective heating or cooling schedule.
Outside of a physical office setting, IoT proves to be another tool for keeping your teams connected and updated in real-time, despite time-zone or geographical discrepancies. Perhaps a sensor alerts your remote sales team when specific deliveries have shipped out, allowing them to accurately gauge the timeliness of each customer’s order. Or maybe your marketing team will use internet-paired devices to collect more accurate data from the platforms that your audience is actually using.
Regardless of how you decide to implement the Internet of Things, it’s certain that this technology will make workspaces more adaptable, insight-driven, and able to respond to situations as they arise.
Voice over Internet Protocol
As businesses migrate to more flexible work opportunities, the success of their transition will hinge directly on their ability to preserve a unified front. Capable of relaying “packets” of voice information over a Wi-Fi or broadband internet connection, Voice over Internet Protocol (shortened to VoIP) is a piece of technology that helps businesses meet the demands of a flexible workforce. The VoIP market is seeing sizable growth in its computer-to-computer and mobile sectors, with a total market share that will reach $55 billion by 2025.
Perhaps the best way to understand VoIP technology is by comparing it to more traditional methods of voice communication—namely, the office telephone. As opposed to plugging into a phone line network, VoIP’s connection through the internet makes this innovation as mobile as you are. Users can send or receive calls in the office from their desk phone or while on the go, through their laptop or other portable devices. Because it makes communication more accessible for those who don't have a permanent work location, VoIP is often the underlying technology to a larger approach to unified communications.
More importantly, virtual solutions such as VoIP and others like it mark a significant shift in the types of investments that businesses are making in 2020. The typical workspace no longer contains an office phone, fax machine, printers, and other bulky equipment. Rather, the widespread adoption of VoIP is indicative of a larger digital pattern—that organizations are foregoing their analog, hardwired technology for software-powered alternatives.
This means that your computer can contain an entire suite of office necessities—everything from communication platforms to electronic scans of faxes—if you make the right investments. Today, all of the tools you need can be used right from your laptop. And all this is to say that your workspace and workflows might not need a physical presence at all, enabling businesses to opt for a partial or total migration to virtual office spaces.
If replacing analog tools with virtual ones is the first step to digitally transforming your workspace, the next step is optimizing those digital alternatives. For both marketing teams and small business owners who wear many hats, automated marketing software (including CRMs) helps further improve their existing marketing tasks.
At its core, automation software relies on machine learning or artificial intelligence to replicate the manual labor required to run your marketing operations. Instead of using your workspaces to get work done, automation solutions enable your workspaces to do the work for you. Marketing automation pinpoints many of the tedious projects you face on any given day and, by detecting patterns and repetitive motions in your workflows, performs these tasks autonomically.
Similar to many software solutions on the market today, marketing automation gives small businesses access to state-of-the-art technology through subscription-based business modeling, which removes any hefty upfront spend and gives these smaller entities access to technology that they otherwise may not have the resources to invest in. Although the automation of business processes may have once been exclusive to large, enterprise corporations, small businesses in 2020 are just as likely to seek its services. With over 70% of businesses either currently using or planning to use marketing automation technology, it will soon be more uncommon for a business to not use automation in some capacity.
But what, exactly, does this trend spell out for the future of our workspaces? More likely than not, automation and AI integrations will push every business to continue to optimize the virtual spaces and platforms they use every day. As digital workspaces continue to evolve at an exponential rate, relying on artificial intelligence will become the only way for businesses to keep up with these trends and leverage themselves against their competitors.
The newest advancement in cellular technology will take the current mobile workforce and accelerate it tenfold. While fifth-generation (5G) mobile broadband may not build out many new features or capabilities when compared to its 4G and 4G LTE predecessors, its improvements to cellular speed will make it a formidable tool for any business looking to mobilize its workforce. 5G is able to operate at a higher efficiency by optimizing certain aspects of mobile performance. This includes, among other measurements:
- Latency, which measures the amount of time it takes data to travel from one point to another
- Connection density, or the number of connected devices that this network can support
- Real-world speeds, or the actual speeds 5G will be able to handle outside of test environments
Of course, this all begs the question, just how fast will 5G be? Although 5G-enabled devices are just emerging on the markets, early reports advertise speeds of four gigabits, or 500 megabytes, per second. At that rate, you could download a 50-gigabyte application in less than two minutes.
Before 5G, one of the primary barriers to working on the move was the limitations of mobile devices, which did not have the computing power necessary to run certain business tools. But with the ability to access any and all of the tools you need to accomplish your work from your phone, the business landscape is forecasted to witness a massive boost in mobile work environments. Traveling sales representatives will have access to the same workspaces as their colleagues who are housed in the office. Managers and business leaders could quite easily oversee multiple branches from a completely remote location. And full-time remote employees will be able to bypass on-site onboarding by using 5G to sync up with their fellow new hires in an augmented reality training program.
Although you may not presently have access to 5G-capable phones or subscriptions, you don’t have the liberty to neglect this technology and its ramifications to your workspaces. It’s imperative for business leaders and managers today to understand 5G, its place in their industry, and how they can harness this technology to achieve their goals and outrun the competition.