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Technology used to be a complicated web, with physical wires connecting a computer to the internet, a printer, or any peripheral. Now, technology provides anything but a restrictive experience. Workplace technology today enables professionals to do their work when they want, how they want, and where they want. In fact, I am writing this while on a couch in our office atrium.
Over the last several years, the nature of work has evolved. We’ve seen a few key workplace “megatrends” that have significant implications for CIOs and technology decision makers.
Remote Work still Calls for a Home Base
The freelancer economy is on the rise, as are client service jobs. In both cases, employees might be on site with clients for short bursts of time. To cut down on wasted space and cater to this transient workforce, many offices have adopted desk hoteling or hot desk programs, where employees reserve a desk in advance for use while in the office. Many more companies have adopted formal remote work programs. According to the World Economic Forum’s forecast of employment trends, work flexibility, including telework, is “one of the biggest drivers of transformation” in the workplace.
And the impact is profound: employees and businesses alike have embraced remote work. Employees appreciate that working remotely means advocating for better work-life balance. Those with family commitments or side passions have the means and time to cater to those needs. For businesses, fewer people in the office means lower real estate bills, lower utility bills, and less time spent on in-office perks such as snacks and coffees. And best of all? Remote workers report being more productive.
But there’s still value in having a home base for face time, important meetings, presentations, and inspiration. Offices provide employees with structure. And during these meetings and presentations, employees often need physical documents, printed, bound, signed, sealed and delivered.
That said, office products that have a fixed location have to change how they interact with people. In the past, you were tethered to a particular printer. Today’s employees need the ability to wirelessly print from any location over the network so that whenever they walk into any space they have a fully functioning office space immediately. The print functionality should follow them throughout the building or any company location on the network, where they can then print jobs with a personal print release code.
The Rise of The “Digital Nomad”
Some employees take remote work to the next level—opting not to have any home base and instead using their new found freedom to live as virtual nomads. Some even travel the world. Wherever these nomads go, they still need some sort of virtual headquarters.
"Today's employees need the ability to wirelessly print from any location over the network so that whenever they walk into any space they have a fully functioning office space."
And technology is making this even easier. Consider, for example: does face time have to be in person? Or can video conferencing satiate the need (and generate the same or greater benefits) as connecting in person? If you are in a cross country or global role, your meetings can span multiple time zones, and your location is secondary to having the flexible functionality. The same logic applies for presentations where you are no longer tied to a conference room and requiring wired connections to all kinds of devices. Now multiple people can share a wireless connection and you can collaborate and share information instantly. You can even present virtually. This allows people in several offices to connect remotely, bringing more team members into the process. We leverage our AQUOS BOARD interactive displays to have teams across the country and across the globe share the same video image and collaborate in real time as though they were in the same room.
Multiple Devices; One Experience
Whether employees are hopping around the office or hopping around the globe, all of their information travels with them— usually on multiple devices. One employee might have a company phone, a personal phone, a tablet, a laptop, and a desktop hookup for that laptop. As that same employee logs in to work from different offices or on-site with clients, the user experience must be consistent: all the same files with the same name in the same place.
The solution? The cloud—it’s ubiquitous and more important than ever. My children in grade school move seamlessly from devices in the classroom, to the library and to our home, all with the same experience on Google Docs. In fact, there’s a lot that offices can learn from schools. Sharp’s integration with Blackboard Learn allows college and K-12 students to connect to any Sharp multifunction printer on campus to scan assignments and upload the file to their Blackboard Learn courses. It improves the student user experience by providing a more efficient and flexible way to submit handwritten or hard-copy assignments. Their coursework moves with them. The integration also streamlines the workflow for instructors, allowing them to review and grade uploaded assignments from within their Blackboard Learn course.
The same technology could be used to house and share meeting notes, manage projects, share brainstorming ideas from a digital whiteboard, digitize hard copies of documents, and eliminate the need for storage. This technology is helping businesses slim down in size and real estate, while simultaneously scaling the business.
Evolving technology and workplace megatrends go hand in hand. While technology enables fundamental shifts, the cultural and philosophical changes ultimately outpaced the technological changes. Now, we’re working to bridge the gap. For example, our proprietary Open Software Architecture allows our dealers to customize products with features and software to meet the needs of their specific customers. Its technology that adapts to user needs, not the other way around. As the times change, technology can too. This way, we can ensure that those working in new ways are not hindered by technology because technology has outgrown its role as a tether.