Workplace tech: why it matters more than ever for recruitment, employee morale and productivity

By Tim Morgan-Hoole, Managing Director, JTRS (part of the Econocom Group)

Technology has made the majority of our social and work lives much easier, more fun and interesting. We can access almost any information we need within seconds at the click of a button, and can have a conversation with someone on the other side of the world using instant messaging; or use video conferencing to avoid tedious commutes into the office for a meeting.

Near-universal broadband technology makes it possible to work from home and allows us to work more flexible hours than the traditional nine-to-five working day. PwC recently announced a scheme that even allows some new employees to work the hours they want[1] – such as shorter weekly working hours, or only working for a few months a year.

While some in the industry are worried about technology replacing jobs, recent research predicts that fewer jobs will be replaced by automation than initially expected. This is reinforced by the McKinsey report[2] that states not many occupations — less than five per cent — are candidates for full automation.

Manual work, in highly structured and predictable environments, as well as data collection and processing, are most susceptible to automation but middle-skill and high-paying, high-skill occupations are also likely to be affected, McKinsey has predicted.

On the bright side, AI and automation, like most new technologies, are likely to create new types of work – for example, human workers using emotional intelligence and lateral thinking to work with AI, not just work under it.

AI and other new technologies such as blockchain may also increase productivity at work. And that could increase economic growth and living standards. Employers need to balance the opportunities of new technology (increased productivity, new types of job) with risks (industrial disputes over job losses and IT security problems).

Consider the rapid growth of workers using their smartphones and other handheld devices for work, whether their own or their employers’. This trend is known as BYOD, “Bring Your Own Device”, or CYOD, “choose your own device”. Instead of simply being given a laptop and a phone on their first day that has been set up by IT already, this new policy enables new starters to choose a selection of different company-approved devices, regardless of brand and according to their preferences. As cross-party and cross-platform working becomes easier, CYOD is something that all businesses need to consider as part of their core IT offering.

Workplace technology is now considered so important that it may influence whether a candidate decides to take a job with a company. Research by Econocom UK, found that 58% of office workers said workplace technology would influence their decisions when searching for a new job. Sixty-two per cent said a CYOD strategy would be a factor in their job search, and this figure increased to 80% among young “millennial” workers.

While it’s important that businesses of all sizes must think about upgrading their workplace technology to retain staff, attract new talent and boost productivity, there is also the issue around funding this technology. However, organisations can overcome this challenge by using subscription models to access digital assets.

Opting for an OPEX approach rather than a CAPEX one is a far more financially viable way of benefiting from the latest technology. In addition to spreading the cost over a period of time, by opting for a model such as this, organisations can enjoy wider benefits like having access to the skills and experience of the technology provider, taking strain off the in-house IT team. They can also ensure they are keeping up-to-date with the latest technology trends and have the means to access those new technologies (and keep staff happy) in a cost-effective and predictable way.

It’s unclear exactly how many human jobs technologies such as automation, AI and blockchain will replace, or create. But one thing is clear: technology is becoming more important in helping companies increase productivity, attract workers and communicate with customers, and as careers and working hours become more flexible and varied, technology can help employers keep pace with a changing workplace and economy.

And while cost and budget will always be a challenge for organisations when it comes to technology investment, the longer-term benefits are immense. That said, to capitalise on these benefits businesses can seek alternatives when it comes to cost – it’s no longer necessary to spend CAPEX. There are financial models available, such as subscription models, that are ideal for keeping technology current by taking an OPEX approach.

 

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