The industrial revolution propelled the world into a new era of productivity, but it did so at the expense of human lives. Workplaces were often dirty, dangerous, and unregulated. Deaths occurred frequently and injuries were commonplace. Injured employees weren’t supported and many families were plunged into ruin as a result.
In the centuries since the industrial revolution began, employers have come to realise the commercial value, not to mention the moral imperative, of taking better care of their people. Largely, this has meant creating safer workspaces and implementing occupational health and safety practices.
Furthermore, some progressive firms began to run wellness initiatives and offer other employee perks. However, these perks were often a thinly-disguised ploy to get workers to spend more time in the office; free breakfasts and subsidised childcare, for example, made it easier for employees to work longer hours.
Now, with the advent of the gig economy, perennial skills shortages, and a general reluctance by younger workers to commit to jobs just for the sake of stability, organisations are finding it harder to attract and retain top talent. This has led to an increased focus on the employee experience.
Improving the employee experience goes beyond free breakfasts and flexible working hours. The focus is subsequently now on improving the physical workspace by creating environments in which people can interact with and be inspired by each other.
Emerging technologies will shape the future workplace
While flexibility is key, 65% of workers surveyed by Deloitte wish for collaborative and inclusive workplaces. This means they need to be able to work with colleagues regardless of location, sharing information and ideas as readily as if they were in the same room.
Activity-based work areas and co-working spaces are on the rise. For remote workers and freelancers, these co-working spaces can become crucial connectors to other professionals.
To truly enable the collaborative workplace that employees thrive in, businesses will need to invest in key technologies. Artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and the Internet of Things (IoT) will all change the way employees experience their workplace.
Emerging technologies are making today’s workplaces unrecognisable from those of even 10 years ago. Future workspaces with smart lighting designed to lift employees’ moods and improve concentration will become the norm. IoT sensors that regulate room temperature and air quality will further contribute to employee wellbeing. Smart meeting rooms that let people collaborate faster and without friction will help employees feel more productive and be more effective.
These technologies will also combine to put more information in the hands of decision-makers, helping them make more informed choices that drive the organisation forward. With more information and fewer tedious tasks, employees will become empowered to contribute in real and meaningful ways. This will help improve employee engagement and give organisations a reputation for being a desirable place to work. In turn, this will help businesses attract and retain the best candidates.
How organisations can get ahead of the curve
Future workplace evolution will take time and will look different according to each organisation’s unique needs. It’s important for businesses to understand what changes make sense for them in terms of budget, existing capabilities and workforce requirements, and potential for improvement.
Businesses that are ready to take a digital-first approach to operations should start small and build on initial successes. Automating processes where possible is an ideal first step to introduce efficiencies and get employees used to a new way of working.
To find out more about how Upstream can help your business embrace automation and other emerging technologies, contact us today.