There’s a difference between what we might call contemporary or trendy workplaces (perhaps the sorts with casual, open-plan offices, games rooms and nap pods) and what we mean when we refer to the modern workplace, although, of course, the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
The term ‘modern workplace’ refers more to a set of technological, physical and psychological conditions which aim to improve the overall employee experience while simultaneously optimising the productivity and efficiency of the organisation.
In many ways, this new way of thinking about the workplace has paved the way for new and emerging technologies, the sort which support automation, collaboration and hybrid working (remember, a recent survey of the housing sector revealed that almost every housing provider in the UK plans to move, or has moved, to a hybrid-working approach).
In turn, this has meant that the modern workplace has become a highly digital environment; a place that needs robust infrastructure to facilitate the technologies, applications, data, tools and collaboration features required by employees with important work to do, and which enables them to access their workspace from anywhere.
Still, while highly digital by necessity, it’s important to remember that the modern workplace isn’t just about using new and advanced technologies. What the modern workplace really speaks to most of all is people.
The modern workplace is about transforming internal systems and processes to make them more user-friendly and efficient; it’s about future-proofing and adding scalability to organisations to secure and upskill the jobs held within; and it’s about improving the working experience significantly for busy end-users by offering flexibility and reliability.
The term ‘modern workplace’, then, is a lens through which we consider the fundamental role technology will play in shaping and enhancing housing providers as they strain to meet our changing human needs.
How the modern workplace helps housing providers
The modern workplace is about transforming the user experience through changes to internal systems and processes to make them more user-friendly and efficient. It also facilitates housing providers as they create infrastructures that respond to the goals of the organisation, namely, to help more of those in need.
Having implemented a modern workplace strategy, most housing associations will benefit from:
- Faster, more reliable communications;
- Enhanced productivity;
- Lower operating costs;
- More efficient processes;
- Higher employee productivity;
- Reliable backup and disaster recovery;
- Interconnected and transparent operations;
- Improved cyber security;
- Higher staff satisfaction and engagement;
- Increased flexibility and scalability;
- Attracting skilled talent;
- Improved customer experiences.
How will the modern workplace evolve?
Ever since the first lockdowns of 2020, we’ve seen a shift to more flexible ways of working; what does the modern workplace look like two years later and how will it evolve?
- Use of physical office space
While it’s true that modern workplaces facilitate remote working (and that many employees prefer their improved work/life balance), physical offices didn’t exactly become redundant despite many people’s predictions a year or two ago.
Instead, the way we use office space continues to evolve, with many employees reporting that they prefer to go into the office occasionally to collaborate with colleagues and benefit from social interaction. In other words, the modern workplace offers a ‘best of both worlds’ approach, wherein organisations can retain the wellbeing benefits of working from home while still promoting strong professional and social environments.
This trend is also changing the layout and design of offices because more space is needed for, say, monthly team meetings, occasional one-on-ones and even quiet, concentration rooms (for staff who visit the office now and then to escape hectic home lives). In future, housing providers may find that what they need are smaller, quieter meeting rooms set up for video conferencing and phone calls rather than larger, open-plan offices.
- Business analytics
Modern housing providers are never merely ‘places of work’ but centres of collaboration and innovation. This means they are focusing more on supporting employees’ work, productivity and experiences.
To achieve this, housing providers need to bridge the gap between one of their most important assets, data, and their decision making. After all, data (or business intelligence) is a key component in any organisation’s ability to remain agile, strategic and transformative.
Housing providers might therefore want use of tools such as Microsoft Power BI to increase their business intelligence efforts. With this, users can connect to, model, visualise and securely share data, turning insights into intelligent, evidence-driven action points.
- Personal & professional development
Once upon a time, workers simply went to work to… well, work. People who were deemed ‘driven’ and ‘devoted’ enough were promoted into higher positions while those thought to be less skilled usually remained in their current positions, ad infinitum.
However, in the modern workplace, organisations have recognised the importance of upskilling and empowering their workforces in order to retain their staff and achiever better results.
In the modern workplace, learning is made accessible and user-friendly, and is often available through self-service or online portals. Without this, housing providers risk blocking the learning process and increasing their dependence on outside expertise.
- Investment in employees’ wellbeing
As the focus shifts to employee experience in the modern workplace, many housing providers realise that unhappy employees are also unproductive, demotivated and disengaged employees.
The modern workplace will prioritise and continue to destigmatise mental health alongside elevating digital employee experience (DEX) and overall employee experience (EX) in order to reap the benefits in terms of productivity and staff retention.
Of course, keeping your employees happy is also the right thing to do and leads to a far better, more collaborative and positive working environment for everyone.
- Focus on communication
The modern workplace depends on the free flow of ideas, information and instruction. In order to be successful, housing providers will need to facilitate constant communication and collaboration through multiple channels. Users will require the ability to communicate through face-to-face conversations, large group meetings, email, video and phone calls, project management software and impromptu instant messaging.
To this end, your managed service provider should be transparent about the software and devices your organisation uses and the ways they can promote and simplify communication and collaboration digitally.
Richard Hutchings is the chief technology officer at Littlefish.