While some companies are in a scramble to get their workplace tech up to speed with today’s flexible work trends, others are already planning for what’s next. If IT leaders don’t prepare now, they’ll risk falling behind—or worse, losing their roles to those with a clearer roadmap to the future of workplace tech.
Today’s trends in workplace tech lay the foundation for what’s to come. So let’s take a look at the four trends in workplace tech IT leaders can begin to prepare for now.
Trend 1: Smart home tech will enter the workplace
Five to ten years down the line all the technologies we see in a smart home will be in the workplace—but they’ll be even better. (Think: controlling appliances, lights, thermostats, and other devices using your phone.) “I see a future where individual employees have their own profiles that track their work preferences. As they approach the desk they booked for the day, it’ll automatically adjust to meet their specific ergonomic needs,” says Dana Stocking, Workplace Technology Manager at Envoy.
To make this work, new open-source software will come onto the market replacing walled gardens that prevent workplace tools from talking to each other. These open ecosystems will turn the workplace “on.” This will enable an on-site experience that’s tailored to people’s unique needs and preferences.
Beyond ergonomics, this smart technology will help you find that desk you booked for the day. When you approach it, your desk’s light will start blinking so you can easily find it. With a simple tap of your phone, you can change the color of the light to indicate that you’re doing heads-down work so others won’t disturb you.
Trend 2: Telepresence-capability will integrate throughout the workplace
Technology will finally give remote employees a true “in the room” experience. People will join meetings using virtual reality devices. They’ll be able to interact with their teammates as though they’re in the same room. There’ll also be a greater variety of meeting spaces, like Google’s Campfire—where employees sit in a circle and remote attendees appear on life-size displays between on-site folks. These meeting spaces will replace the standard meeting room as the most desired place in the workplace.
Just about every surface will be digital—countertops, tables, refrigerator doors, and glass walls will be game. Employees will be able to play on digital game boards during their lunch breaks with work friends. These boards will switch to meeting room screens or digital whiteboards with a tap and a swipe.
Trend 3: Health and safety will evolve from point solutions to the built environment
Today, the market for health and safety point solutions has grown saturated. Infrared thermometers and other touchless technologies are commonplace. The workplace of the future will incorporate more advanced versions of this tech into the physical building. This will go beyond today’s HVAC and green building technologies. Desks and meeting rooms will offer real-time feedback on health and wellness best practices. For example, they might suggest when it’s time to take a break from staring at a screen.
Wearable technology will advance to tell people when they’re sick, so they don’t go into the workplace. If an employee gets ill at work, their wearables will suggest they go home. They’ll also update the employees’ calendars to show they’re WFH or out sick.
Trend 4: Flexible workspaces will replace cookie-cutter spaces—and they’ll respond to employee needs
In 2030, the workplace will look different every time you visit. On days when more people are on-site, there will be more individual workstations. These stations will be able to move responsively, depending on how many people registered to work on-site the day before. Furniture will be flexible and change depending on how employees need to use the workplace. If you need more privacy, a robot can inflate a temporary balloon wall in under a minute to give you a pop-up meeting space.
Space management technology will help admins choose layouts according to specific spatial needs. Once they’ve decided on a layout, tech-enabled furniture will say, on their displays, exactly where in the workplace they should move. Some will even be able to move themselves, enabling workplace teams to spend their time doing more critical work.
The workplace of tomorrow is under development today. As IT spending increases over the next year and beyond, employers will expect more return on their investment. IT leaders must stay ahead of workplace technology trends, carefully matching solutions with the needs of their employees and business. If they’re successful, they’ll secure their spot as essential business partners for the long term.