HAVE you noticed how rapidly the look of our workplace has changed over the last few years? Look around your office. Remember when you used to hear the gentle hum of the water-cooler as it softly revved into action as you and your friends stood beside it, gossiping, slaying your co-workers behind their backs and poking fun at management? Where is it now?
The high price of energy has no doubt kicked it to the curb and in its place now squats a 'fluffy' round water bottle, with a stack of paper cups (if you are lucky). Somehow this plump, curved water dispenser does not emit the siren-like call of the ole-time water cooler which kept all our office secrets. These include fables of office romances and rumour-turn-true to life stories about job cuts. Funny enough, these water bottles do not beckon us away from our desks to have a lounge and chat. These days, we will more often than not just take a quick drink from the dispenser and we are off again to the salt mines of our desks. Sigh...
Take a quick glance around again and you will see in the space where your sturdy IBM Selectric or other typewriters used to sit, the sleek, cold and distant computer monitor now holds pride of place. Unless they enter the annals of a really ancient Government office, some millennials have never perhaps heard the click-click of the typewriter. Whether we like it or not, the fax machine too is in the Departure Lounge, but refuses to hear its flight call as many offices have not yet relinquished the hold on this office trophy turned relic. After all, do we not get scanned documents, complete with all necessary signatures via e-mail? My, my, how things have changed. And believe it or not, there is more change in the way we communicate within the office riding on the horizon.
I am sifting through an advance cut of a publication called 'DW Digital Workplace Trends Report 2013' which I found on-line. It gives us a taste of the future. The term digital workplace, the report says, is not used to represent "a desirable end state". Instead it represents what most organisations already have, "a combination of digital applications, tools and intranets that people use to do their jobs. 2013, the report says, is the year of digital workplace awareness and experimentation for the majority of enterprises. "For the early adopters it is the year of change facilitation," it says.
There are some aspects of these changes, the more traditional, 'touchy-feely' ones among us might not like. Let's face it, no matter what they say about its efficacy, digital 'anything' seems to push us further and further away from each other. We lose the human connection and if we are not careful, we might become numb and detached and less caring about each other. Just think about how carelessly one hot-headed employee has in the past just mindlessly pressed the send button, unleashing an unfeeling e-mail communicating redundancies. It is comforting to know, though, that through sensitivity training these occurrences are fewer and far between.
The Digital Workplace Trends Report 2013 is the seventh such research and its preface highlights the fact that the digital workplace concept is gaining momentum "as organisations are beginning to realise that work is fundamentally changing." The report says, however, that the digital workplace reality is quite different for most. "The majority of people work in contexts where they are limited physically and functionally by their digital tools and fragmented platforms. They are stifled by organisational cultures that do not encourage initiatives and management styles that are not conducive to open dialogue."
Some of the findings of the study revealed that 2013 is the year when mobile will take off. "Sixty per cent of organisations consider mobile to be important and have already made "significant" or "some investment". Last year the report says, the figure was just under 40 per cent. Forty-five per cent of organisations offer either no mobile or simply e-mail access.
Of course social media landed front and centre of the report which says that deployment of social collaboration continues, but adoption lags. Says, the report: "Adoption lags far behind deployment for the social capabilities that empower individuals and self-organising communities and challenge traditional hierarchies and roles within organisations. These include capabilities such as commenting, user generated content, internal crowdsourcing." The report reveals that the proportion of organisations that say they have "no plans for social networking" has dropped radically from 38 per cent just 12 months ago to seven per cent at the end of 2012. My understanding of this is that our workplace has decided to lock out FaceBook and other such social media channels -- for now.
Things are changing rapidly around our workspace, and the more attuned we are to the nuances, the better prepared we will be when we pull up to our desks. What do you think?