The Workplace Revolution

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Are these terms familiar to you: workshifting, hoteling, benching, hotdesking, and huddle spaces? If not, you are missing out on new opportunities driven by the revolutionary changes in today’s workplace.

Over the past 50 years, the office has undergone a number of key evolutions. In the 1950s, corporations started becoming more organization chart-focused, grouping employees by department and seniority. Departments were often assigned to a floor within the office building, and employee desks were packed into an open-plan space. Those with seniority (i.e. the bosses) were provided special workplaces (i.e. private offices) that overlooked the open space.

During the ‘60s, the office began a transformation developed in Germany called Bürolandschaft. Private offices were eliminated and large, structurally undivided open plans with partitions became popular. The concept behind the design was an attempt to create an environment that increased communications and allowed flexibility.

The 1970s introduced the Action Office cubicles, which became the norm for most office environments in the ‘80s and ‘90s. And of course, we can thank cubicles for the creation of Dilbert, the disgruntled office employee of comic strip fame. As new office technologies became available, cubicles became wired for phones, internet, and fax machines.

The 2000s brought about a wave of technology that altered our personal and work lives, and began to affect the changes we are seeing in the workplace today. Key developments included Intel’s incorporation of Wi-Fi in its Centrino chip (2002), the launch of Skype and Live Communications Server (2003), and Apple’s introduction of the iPhone (2007) and iPad (2010).

Mobility has become a fundamental component of today’s workplace. Mobile devices and connections grew to 7.4 billion in 2014. Smart devices represented 26 percent of the total number of mobile devices and connections, but they accounted for 88 percent of the mobile data traffic. The quantity of mobile-connected tablets is currently 74 million, and each tablet generates 2.5 times more traffic than the average smartphone. Tablets in use for work and home are forecasted to reach 905 million globally by 2017. Twenty-nine percent of today’s global workforce is anytime, anywhere information workers.

This inter-connectivity is beginning to alter how and where we are working. Wireless access from almost anywhere for any device, communication and collaboration software, and file sharing are changing the way work itself is completed. Mobility no longer means just outside of the office; internal mobility, or working at multiple locations within an office—such as a focus space, a collaborative space, a hallway, and entryway—has become the norm.

Companies are trying to optimize costs by reducing unused private office space while increasing the space for collaboration. From 2010 to 2012, the average workplace square-footage-per-person dropped from 225 to 176, and it is predicted to fall to as low as 100 square feet per person by 2017. Office management strategies such as hoteling and hot-desking are being implemented to help optimize the efficiency of office space, while planning a range of appropriate spaces that meet the needs of the industry, organization, culture, work types, and critical activities.

The physical changes in today’s workplace environment, combined with the critical nature of technology throughout the workflow process, are creating new, mission-critical opportunities for system integrators. But don’t give yourself a raise quite yet; there are a multitude of areas where new or refreshed sales and technical skills may be required.

On the technical side, expertise in mobile technologies is critical. Experience in facility-wide Wi-Fi and cellular access systems is vital. Authentication and security issues will continue to be major concerns. With the increasing quantity of BYOD knowledge, experience in inductive charging systems will be required to manage the large quantity of devices. Network infrastructure design and deployment experience will be required in order to build a robust, flexible, and scalable technology infrastructure backbone. As more and more applications are being moved to the cloud, experience in cloud services will be required. As collaboration and open-space designs become the norm, acoustical knowledge and experience will become even more critical. Direct-field sound masking systems will become commonplace.

On the sales side, the ability to effectively discuss and answer questions about total cost of ownership (TCO) and return on investment (ROI) will become an everyday occurrence. Five, four, and three nines up-time service level agreements will also be part of the conversation. Measurement, management, and optimization will become required benchmarks for improved efficiency.

Although the entry bar may seem high to these types of opportunities, the rewards can be well worth the investment.

R. Randal Riebe (randy.riebe@polycom.com) is the director of AV integrator business development at Polycom.

Workspace Glossary

Workshifting is a term created by Citrix that refers to getting work done in the right place, by the right people, at the right time. It doesn’t mean giving your work to someone else.

Hoteling is not an extra room that you can sleep in at the office but an office management strategy, that through reservation and a check-in process, assigns workspaces to an individual. By sharing spaces between employees, a company can optimize the efficiency of its offices, reducing real estate costs and employing more people in the same space.

Benching is not referring to an activity at the gym, but a table-based furniture solution designed for integration into the new office environment. The design is typically rectilinear, mobile, and flexible, allowing designers to create a variety of solutions to accommodate a wide range of needs.

Hot-Desking does not refer to setting your desk on fire, but is similar to hoteling, where office assets such as an office or desk are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Huddle Spaces is not a new football term, but refers to small meeting spaces equipped with technology designed to enhance collaboration. Wainhouse Research estimates the total number of huddle rooms around the world to be between 30 and 50 million. That is a lot of opportunity.

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