Rolling out change has traditionally involved employees receiving ample doses of motivational messages along with frequent prompts nudging people to accept change. Human resource departments lead many change management programmes, and while they play a prominent role in these processes, they are increasingly supported by electronic communications. One can observe the rise of worktech as an integral part of the change-delivery process, accompanied by algorithm-based automated interventions. This augurs well with a generation of young workers – that is, millennials and Gen Z – who would rather choose from multiple options in a worktech app than be subjected to change-related motivational talk. AI-driven worktech tools have the ability to decipher user behaviour and electronically deliver customised choices and flexibility options to users. Cleverly written algorithms in such tools can bring ease of use and relatability, making change adoption smooth.

Let us look at the evolution of worktech.

Most decisions in organisations have to be justified financially. The two biggest costs in running an office-based organisation are the staff and the physical infrastructure. Both these costs are impacted when it comes to offering employees choices, as described in the previous chapters. Fortunately, these costs can be influenced.

Before we make suggestions about ways to control costs, it is important to note that costs can be broadly categorised under two headings:

  1. Work inefficiency: Productivity is lost when employees either do the wrong thing or they do the right thing in the wrong way. In hybrid work, a lot of inefficiencies can creep in due to irregular work patterns.

  2. Office infrastructure inefficiency: With employees working in places away from traditional offices and cubicles, time and money are lost as they don’t always have the right tools with them. Moreover, employees are no longer glued to a workspace for eight hours every working day. In such a scenario, the office space may be inefficiently used.

Worktech is fast evolving to tackle issues around work and office infrastructure inefficiencies.

Integrating the parts

Hybrid work is going through an evolution as we write. This is fuelling the evolution of worktech, and a need to integrate the various parts is slowly emerging to address inefficiencies. Early signs of integration are seen under three broad categories:

  1. Integration of productivity tools, boosting work efficiency

  2. Integration of the physical infrastructural elements, boosting infrastructure efficiency

  3. Integration of productivity tools into the physical infrastructure.

Integration of productivity tools

We are referring to tools that allow people to collaborate and meet online, such as video-conferencing tools and the like, as productivity tools for knowledge workers. The suddenness of the pandemic and its associated challenges propelled organisations to accelerate their adoption of many new tools, allowing them to better navigate a world where all office employees worked remotely. In the world of hybrid work, the lack of integration between these tools as well as the physical infrastructure in the office required employees to log in and out of multiple platforms and devices. For example, throughout the day, an employee might have logged in to a video-conferencing tool like Zoom several times from their phone and then logged in a few times from the video-conferencing system in meeting rooms. This was burdensome enough. But when entering calls through the rooms, one might have been required to enter some form of authentication. Since this authentication was not done automatically, workers needed special usernames and passwords, which often caused quite a hassle. Then the same employee might have been required to use another collaboration tool, like Slack, from their laptop or phone in a different space to collaborate with a remote team. This might have required yet another process of authentication. This inefficiency leads to a lot of time wasted.

If this type of complication continued throughout many months, leading to a diminished sense of productivity and effectiveness, an employee might have been ready to quit in frustration. And instead of finding fast ways to integrate many pieces of technology, organisations just kept adding new devices, platforms and physical spaces from which employees could work. Instead of getting simpler, the workplace experience journey became seemingly more complex as the number of organisational touchpoints went up significantly. Although the introduction of tools like mobile apps that remember employees’ specific personal choices is a positive step, if they are not integrated seamlessly into other aspects of work, they might be perceived as just another tool to manage. In many organisations, efforts are now being made to integrate tools into fewer or a single platform to create a smoother employee experience.

While we don’t have all the answers to integrating productivity-enhancing tools, we know that this topic is incredibly important. And the sooner users and providers can come together on ways to meet the needs of organisations and workers, the better.

Physical infrastructure integration

A need to integrate parts of the physical environment that facilitate work has also emerged. It does not end there. Not only do different elements of the physical infrastructure need to talk to each other, but handshakes also need to be built between those tools and productivity tools as well.

For example, if an employee books a focus pod in the office, the room needs to suit the user’s needs. Based on past selections, the lighting can be automatically pre-set, driving familiarity for the user. If an employee decides to drive to work, the employee app can present not only the best route but also help him/her pick a parking spot closest to the seat already selected for the day. At lunchtime, the employee’s normal food choices might be pre-understood. The employee might receive computerised recommendations for food based on their health records or past choices. An employee can order ahead of time, and the cafeteria will have the food prepared based on the options selected.

Similarly, an organisation’s backend facilities dashboard allows the building administration team to track the infrastructure performance, parking and mobility patterns, drink preferences and office occupancy patterns. Such tracking happens in real-time. Data collected helps the facilities team discover trends and trend analysis can help organisations take corrective action around a variety of problems and issues. Moreover, optimising asset management and promoting sustainability through efficient resource allocation, informed decision-making and trend-driven strategies minimise waste and energy consumption, aligning with the commitment of organisations to reduce their ecological impact.

Excerpted with permission from Work Made Easy: A Guide to Success in Hybrid Environments, Parthajeet Sarma, John Hoffmire, and Raj Krishnamurthy, Westland.