The office of the future should create more innovative employees, says Mike Pollok.
New technology is leading a revolution in the way workplaces look and operate and businesses need to keep up with what lies ahead.
The office of the future should bring about a more connected, motivated and innovative team of employees and more bottomline savings.
What will the office of the future look like?
New buildings are being developed where people won't have allocated desks. It is all about fluidity, and the ability to be flexible. More companies will use the model of paying "by the desk" in shared office environments, or enabling more employees to work remotely.
For those of us who are of an older generation, the biggest difference will be the lack of paper. We have already seen the vanguard of wireless technology, such as tablets and smartphones.
Rather than filling in paper forms, people will write on portable tablets, for example, in A&E waiting rooms.
The content will instantly be digitised and transferred to computer.
Some more mundane tasks will take much less time, or be eliminated, making for much more engaged and positive staff.
There are other exciting new products becoming available, such as ultra-short throw projectors which allow people to project data against a wall with the projector positioned almost immediately below the projected data.
What do businesses need to do to prepare for this?
The challenge for most businesses is to be able to imagine, and then be able to change. Businesses with agile, innovative structures and the right tools for their people and customers will find technology-led change full of opportunity. When a business has done things the same way for years, it's not easy to be able to imagine the possibilities offered by new technology and cloud computing.
Paper-based systems are so ingrained, particularly in accounts payable and document archiving, that an alternative seems very hard to imagine.
The best thing to do is bring in an external consultant who can make an independent assessment of workflows and show how new technology can help improve efficiency and productivity, and reduce costs.
This includes everything from invoicing to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) solutions, which enable staff to securely access their work applications from their own tablets and smartphones.
How long do these kinds of transformations take?
To overhaul major systems such as accounts payable, and change the mindset of a company away from paper-based documentation and document storage, can take months and is then ongoing. Getting buy-in from staff is also a key factor, and this can be a long process.
Some, but not all, will be willing to embrace change, and be excited about more efficient ways of doing things.
It is about clear and open communication. Most staff will need to retrain, and some move into other areas of the business.
But overall, the changes to the office of the future should be an exciting opportunity for staff, and a necessity to ensure a sustainable business in the future.
As an example, there is technology available which will significantly change the way businesses communicate, both internally and externally.
Ricoh's Unified Communications System features portable teleconferencing devices and can connect up to 20 people in different places. This technology is ready and waiting for New Zealand's broadband speeds to be upgraded.
Mike Pollok is managing director of Ricoh New Zealand, which supplies value adding document solutions, copiers, printers and scanners.