Michael Page, joint managing director of workplace consultant Saracen Interiors, believes that we’re in the midst of a technical revolution – this century’s industrial revolution – and it’s set to change the way that we work for good.
A recent Sunday Times special report led with the claim that the UK is now the world leader in the financial technology sector. Reports like that create a buzz that is only set to increase in volume. Fact is, the way in which we do business and communicate is constantly evolving and more and more sectors are partnering with, and investing in, technology as a result.
The power offered by digital is open to everyone and digital technology is awash with business opportunities. Any company fully embracing digital automatically has a good deal more on its radar as digital technology enables businesses and people to reach out and become more in touch and better acquainted.
And it’s official – we are now a digital nation. As the vast scope afforded us by technology continues to grow, we’re constantly adapting the way we work to fit with this fluid world of digital.
Gone are the days of nine to five. Forward thinking employers are no longer chaining us to our desks and the line between the personal and the commercial has become quite blurred. Sometimes we work in an office, sometimes we work in our homes and we walk around with both our social and our business connections stored in our phones along with the platforms to post content to both at our fingertips.
In the last couple of years, our industry has witnessed a shift in the attitude of the majority of our customers as the final shreds of antipathy for all things digital gradually fall away. The digital revolution absolutely has to be embraced for fear of getting left behind and it all starts with the right technology.
In the commercial arena, there’s a definite appetite for state-of-the-art technology and so, as a workplace design consultant, we’re expected to include the most up-to-date digital innovations as ‘par for the course’ in our designs. The client now requires the absolute, optimum choice in IT and telecommunications – these areas now make up a significant chunk of the overall investment.
It’s very much a part of our job to act as a consultant in this area. We shouldn’t just be joining in the digital conversation; we should be leading it and we have to be able to instil confidence in our clients by demonstrating a real knowledge and giving them the best advice.
We have for some time been adept at digitally enabling the end users so that they can adapt to changing work patterns such as remote meetings, conferencing facilities and video business tools. Now, we have to present the best options to fit with the needs of each particular client, tailoring the IT and telecoms requirements to suit. To do this, we need to know how these systems work and to understand the associated benefits of each so that we can pass on this knowledge to our customers.
‘Digital working’ will soon take over from ‘flexible working’ as the new buzz phrase as it’s the former which, crucially, underpins and enables the latter. In as much as we are taking into consideration staff frequently working from home and hot desking as trends of our generation, we are also thinking about how best to facilitate clients so that they can work responsively, accommodating all staff with tools that allow them to access the most cutting edge communications.
Specific consideration is reserved for up-to-date screens and telecom systems, visual sharing systems, conference calling and security. There is a common requirement now for the technology to allow people to attend meetings, in some capacity, from a separate locale. There’s no reason why individuals in France or Germany can’t remotely attend a meeting in Wapping and for the big internationals that is the norm.
Digital technology allows us access to a far bigger world than we have previously been used to and the potential that better communications afford us is enormous. All of the newer tools of the last twenty years have led to an overwhelming increase in productivity while technology-related costs have steadily fallen. Investing in IT improvements is done to improve on overall productivity and it’s essential that we continue to do so. Productivity is the main driver of economic growth and helps to propel us into the future.
But perhaps it’s our understanding that needs the major investment. By not avoiding all things digital and making an effort to understand and work with the new technologies, we can deliver a more holistic approach to the workplace environment with a view to always improving on it. This, in turn, makes way for greater successes and enables us to free up more time for the non-work related stuff – and that’s, ultimately, what really counts the most.