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The new digital office: can tech keep up?

21 Jun 2022
Peter Terry-Brown 

Peter Terry-Brown

Director of Market Development and Channel Activation, Vodafone Business

It’s been a challenging couple of years for businesses of all sizes. We have all had to adjust the way we work to better serve customers, colleagues and partners.

For us, as a global technology communications company, the challenge wasn’t video conferencing and communication tools, it was around how best to collaborate in this new environment.

As hybrid working becomes the norm, we now need to focus our energy on building the right culture to support this way of working. Not only for our current teams, but so we can attract and retain top talent in the future, especially as more digitally savvy generations enter the workforce.

Creating an engaging, digital workplace

By now, most organisations are comfortable with tools like Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Slack. From video conferencing to messaging and chat capabilities, these applications have become the new ‘water cooler’ of the hybrid world.

However, to make this way of working successful long-term, we need to become truly collaborative.

Building on this foundation of tools that can now collaborate with external organisations, share live documents among colleagues and create visual workspaces such as Whiteboard and Mural, the next step is to focus on changing culture and working practices.

The key thing is giving everyone that sense of belonging. We learnt quickly during the pandemic, that for certain discussions you either need to all be in one room or all be virtual to get the most from the session.

In my own team, we’ve created some rules around hybrid working. For instance, those in the office are required to be sensitive to those dialling in remotely; remembering to bring them into the conversation by asking for their contribution and when using a whiteboard, making sure it’s virtual so that the whole team can see it.

Understanding where technology can add value and where it might be limited, is important as we look to the future and adopt new technologies.

Delivering beyond four walls

Already Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality are offering greater remote capabilities through the virtual world.

Helping bring next level collaboration, engineers are able to contact specialists from the other side of the globe to help fix issues and when combined with robotic arms on 5G technology, we’ve seen surgeons operate on patients while in a different city.

This may sound like a scene from a Sci-Fi movie, but this technology is already here.

Let’s take the example of gaming. I am in awe as I watch my son meet up with his friends in a virtual world to discuss how they will rob a bank, playing to each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I’ve even heard them outsource to other players before – negotiating a fee of FIFA points.

I believe it won’t be long before this translates to the business world too. Where using VR headsets in the office and meeting in hologram form or even as avatars in the metaverse will be an everyday occurrence.

For the younger generation, they are born collaborators and do this for fun. Sitting them at a desk with a laptop and video conferencing tool is not going to appeal to them. They are already more advanced than that.

Businesses should be examining what capabilities exist and what steps they can take, and tools they can adopt, based on their own levels of maturity.

What’s clear is that access to collaborative tools is giving employees more flexibility in how, when, and where they communicate and work – something they are demanding following the pandemic. And that having diverse and immersive tools will become more important for the success of hybrid working and the recruitment and retention of staff moving forward.

Start your journey today and find out more about the digital apps that can help transform your workplace.

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