Pre-Pandemic Ideas Stopping Us Imagining Post-Pandemic Workplaces

Image credit: iStockphoto/MangoStar_Studio

It is a given that the pandemic has changed the way organizations work and colleagues communicate. But there’s so much more to it than providing people with good broadband connections at home and telling them to collaborate digitally and then get on with it.

To really optimize this new hybrid normal requires an entirely different way of looking at the whole collective exercise we call work. Naturally, it also means we are evolving toward a new type of digital environment.

The question is, what is the best of breed approach to the new hybrid world of work? 

Is it a case of cherry-picking the best solutions in areas like desktop, content creation, docking, and remote access and then integrating them all? 

Or is there a one-stop solution available from the one vendor which answers all these needs and delivers maximum connectivity and flexibility within one integrated and networked system?

There is no one answer to that, but of course, out there in vendor land, there are lots of claims being made. 

Stop the binary thinking

For one, check out Taiwanese company ATEN International, which describes itself as a “leading provider of AV/IT connectivity and access management solutions and is claiming some thought leadership in this space. 

ATEN recently released a series of hybrid workplace solutions “under the new normal brought about by the pandemic.”

“As people begin to return to work, and organizations look forward and decide on their hybrid working models, it’s not so much that the office has changed, but the way we utilize it that is shifting,” is part of the ATEN mantra.

“New working models are unlikely to be a clear binary choice but rather something more flexible. With the right types of adaptive solutions in place, organizations and workers will be able to bridge the gap between variable working arrangements and make sure that productive hybrid work is here to stay.”

Consider vendor management model for talent

In practice, what does that mean for digital systems? In a world where workers are more widely distributed, it means that the apps they need to do their work — and pass on to their colleagues as part of the digital supply chain — will need to work equally well wherever they are, delivering in terms of remoteness and mobility.   

It also brings in the idea of recruitment, which in many organizations is moving more towards a vendor management model as more temporary workers come in and out of the organization, many of them working as contactors. Digital vendor management is a whole new emerging field. 

ATEN’s solutions span conference room technology, in-house studios for content creation, hack-proof desktop workstations, secure remote service access, and a few more. 

Even before the employee sits down at the workstation, there is also the need for onboarding and training solutions, all of which will need to be delivered digitally.

This will require a significant rethink of infrastructure around edge computing and collaborative networks to be delivered all the way through to the employee’s user experience. 

How will mental health change work?

Technology isn’t the end of it all, of course. There are mental health and wellness issues, culture, and leadership, all of which need to be factored into the new digital environments. Where once the concern was about the ergonomic qualities of office furniture, now we need to be concerned with the mental health impacts of our remote working tools.

The new case studies from the post-pandemic era are yet to be written because the experiences are yet to be had. Still, it all poses a significant challenge for the creators of solutions who have an almost unprecedented checklist of features and capabilities to deliver.

What is clear in 2021 is that the adaptive workforce under discussion in 2018 is nowhere near the same thing. The whole configuration of the organization has changed, and while the adaptive mindset might be similar, the physical reality of the work will never be the same.

Technology-wise, the challenge is on to create a holistic and high-functioning digital workspace that caters to and anticipates the changes which are happening now.

Perhaps the way to think of it is to design for a workplace where our colleagues are not in the next suburb, city, or country but on another planet. 

That might raise our level of ambition and inspire the next generation of work tools conceived not just for today but for the adaptive workforce of the future. 

Lachlan Colquhoun is the ANZ correspondent for CDOTrends and HR&DigitalTrends and the editor of NextGen Connectivity. His fascination is with how businesses are reinventing themselves through digital technology and collaborate with others to become completely new organizations. You can reach him at [email protected].

Image credit: iStockphoto/MangoStar_Studio