Kathy Gibson at Fujitsu Forum, Munich – Many of today’s working practices, tools and even physical environments are becoming obsolete — but companies are largely failing to meet the demands of their current and future workforces.
Artificial intelligence will be among the chief drivers of workplace change, says Duncan Tait, corporate executive officer: senior executive vice-president and head of Americas and EMEIA at Fujitsu.
But building the digital workplace of the future is not just about technology — it’s about creating working environments to continue to attract employees with the right skills.
“We talked to businesses in Europe to find out how they are doing in terms of readying their workplace, and found that many current initiatives are falling short in terms of meeting employee needs for the digital world,” Tait says.
The research was conducted by Pierre Audoin Consultants, and shows that technology is seen as a barrier rather than an enabler for workplace changes.
“Among the key findings was the fact that security is increasingly seen to be holding back productivity in the workplace. Businesses are struggling to effectively address the constant threat of cybercrime while also providing the tools and environment needed for effective internal and external collaboration.”
Companies have responded to the security threat by investing heavily in cyberdefence, but for many of them, the different levels of protection and authentication they have accumulated are acting as a throttle on productivity.
More than half of study participants (56%) believe their current approach to workplace security is having a negative impact on employee productivity, with 20% saying it has a “highly negative” effect.
Often this is caused by employees taking non-compliant routes and cutting corners when faced with complex or time-consuming security procedures and mechanisms.
Security is also preventing businesses from taking full advantage of the latest generation of collaboration-based tools to drive productivity and social integration. According to the study, 41% of businesses have not yet deployed these tools with 46% naming security concerns as the main barrier.
Apart from improving worker productivity, business leaders rank compliance with regulations such as the Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as their biggest workplace security issue; 59% see it as a major challenge, ahead of location-based access and information sharing (58%) and identity management (58%).
As overwhelming as the issue of workplace security is now, it is set to become even more of a priority for businesses in the future.
“In the future workplace, workers will always be connected; freelance and flexible work will dominate many areas; and traditional industry structures will be broken down and re-invented,” Tait says.
“We call this the boundary-less business.”
In this future workplace, business will have to create more collaborative spaces, with virtual and augmented reality to enhance meetings.
“They will be creating collaborative networks of teams composed of internal and external freelancers, connecting people through unified communication platforms and supporting them with intelligent digital assistants,” Tait says.
Challenges preventing companies from readying their workplaces for future needs include outdated legacy technology and workplace environments that are unable to support new ways of working.
The study raises concerns over organisations’ current workplace strategiesand their impact on retaining and attracting new employees.
“The office of today will quickly look and feel out of date. And companies that do not modernise will be unattractive to employees. These factors will lead to a new war for talent.”
The study reveals that companies are making slow progress towards achieving future-proof workplaces and are failing to modernise many essential processes. For example, only 29% of business leaders currently have a centralised approach to service and security management, both important areas for ensuring consistency and control.
While employees increasingly expect flexibility and mobility, less than half (42%) of organisations are able to provide Web portal-based support services for them to access applications and services.
The absence of a workplace environment that is able to support new ways of working and evolving business practices is restricting businesses’ flexibility and agility.
Nearly a quarter of business leaders polled (23%) admit that their current approach is having a negative impact on helping the company adapt to a changing competitive landscape. And 20% say existing workplace strategies are having a negative impact on their ability to accelerate time to market for new products and services. A further 18% say it has a negative impact on retaining and attracting new employees.
Workplace technology should enable worker productivity, but instead it’s seen as a barrier. Many leaders say technological factors are the key barriers to productivity — in fact, almost two-thirds (63%) see interoperability with outdated technology as a major challenge to workplace productivity.
More than half also cited the complexity of current workplace technology (57%) and a lack of access to the right productivity tools(55%) as major issues.
Meanwhile, the majority of organisations don’t even have a clear understanding of their current productivity levels, with only 17% using analytics tools across the business.