Insight, Opinion

Op-Ed: The future of our workplace in an uncertain world

Ramzi Itani, Vice President – Middle East & Africa at Barco has penned an exclusive op-ed for CNME which examines how the future of our workplaces will look like post COVID-19 – and outlines some tips businesses can implement to adapt and cope with these new challenges.

future workplace
Ramzi Itani, VP, Middle East & Africa, Barco.

In the last decade, innovations in digital connectivity coupled with employee demands for flexible working conditions have inspired a re-evaluation of the traditional business model.

However, the current pandemic has pushed organisations to embrace the remote working culture rapidly – accelerating the digital transformation journey of many companies – to increase productivity, maintain business continuity and ensure safety of the staff.

Many countries across the globe saw businesses comply to this new form of working and adapt accordingly. In the UAE, 80 per cent of the private sector employees and 100 percent of public sector were asked to work from home as a preventative measure to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Technology is empowering unprecedented collaboration in the workplace and has revolutionised the way that colleagues and clients communicate and share data with each other. A recent Barco ClickShare survey revealed that 78% of employees strongly support tech-enabled meetings that facilitate the participation of remote joiners.

This means that cross-collaboration between co-workers is maintained despite geographical locations, a benefit well suited to the spread of globalisation and international business practices.

While the pandemic has generated an enforced mass movement to home working, employees who have been in lockdown for several weeks are now beginning to crave the human contact that an office environment delivers.

In a post-virus world, businesses will better understand the benefits of a remote structure but will, more likely, want to adopt a hybrid approach that mixes office-based work and home working more fluidly. This approach delivers the physical interaction that humans need to thrive, with the convenience and flexibility of remote working.

The ability to reduce the number of employees based centrally by implementing flexible working has additional benefits. Office space can be reduced to accommodate a less permanently based workforce while the majority of workers can spread across multiple locations where they often have more immediate access to clients and suppliers.

This fluid approach to remote working also lends itself to the popular freelance economy where workers are brought in as and when required in response to market demands. Contractors largely work from home as they are a temporary workforce and readily engage with technologies that enable remote collaboration.

With the explosion of personal device ownership, employees welcome the opportunity to interact with colleagues using their preferred technology and software solutions.

The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) culture has resulted in a growth in efficiency as it delivers a more agile workforce, where employees can use their own devices to connect to myriad conferencing systems in meetings or remotely.

This is one of the main reasons Barco invested in its new ClickShare Conference solution to cater to employees and businesses who want flexibility now and need technology that facilitates this.

Indeed, our study showed that 71% of employees are already selecting their own preferred conferencing system to communicate with co-workers, with, on average, six different conferencing solutions being used by companies in the past six months.

As the BYOD – or in this case, Bring Your Own Meeting – trend increases, companies must adopt agnostic solutions that facilitate seamless collaborations between multiple software and cloud-based technologies. Solution like ClickShare Conference, which enable employees to use multiple conferencing systems to host remote meetings, are designed to empower companies and employees as they drive efficient collaborations while delivering secure access to a corporate network.

Security is a key priority for all organisations as sensitive data is being transferred across networks and being accessed by external devices. There needs to be a mindset shift around this potential security threat. With the right technology, security measures and training of employees, the risks can be mitigated.

Apprehension surrounding employees using their own devices and software solutions to access internal infrastructure are of course justified. However, there are strong cyber safeguards that can be implemented to protect company networks and safeguard the integrity of those devices logging on.

IT systems can protect themselves from cyberattacks by ensuring that appropriate identification and authorisation steps are taken during set-up and all transferred data is encrypted.

Personal devices are often lost or stolen providing opportunities for unauthorised access to sensitive company data. Remote device management software can help to mitigate against such risks.

The disruption to normal working life from COVID-19 has been huge, and technology has become even more vital in these trying recent weeks and months. But it must be remembered that these trends were happening long before COVID-19; we have been moving to flexible, remote working and towards more virtual collaboration for some time now.

However, as people return to work post lockdown, many more will appreciate the benefits of being able to collaborate remotely and will expect a revised structure where remote working plays a bigger role in their working week. Businesses must ensure they are future proofed to enable them to adapt to and embrace everything that technology brings in this area.

By providing a flexible working model empowered by powerful digital collaboration tools, companies can give their employees the best possible chance of doing their job effectively and productively – no matter what the future holds.

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