Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Technology and Collaboration in the Workplace

submitted by:  Wendy Heller, LEED AP, Steelcase Workplace Consultant
2013 February Partner benefit

It's not news to say that Technology is changing the way we work.  What is
interesting is that because of the way work is changing, we as designers need to
stay up to date on those changes so that we can better design spaces that
enfranchise that work.

Disruptive technologies, such as the iPad and other tablets, have made an enormous
impact on our lives and on our work. One blogger for HBR calls this "the
webification of life"  meaning that we are all connected, all the time, anywhere we
are.  There are now vast amounts of computing power available to individuals and
small businesses from "the cloud" and there's no longer a need to put all that power
in a stationary device.

Changing technology will continue to change how we design workplaces - as devices
become smaller and more powerful, we need different types of spaces to accommodate
those changes.  Technology has enabled mobility which is one reason why so many
traditional workstations are sitting empty.

When IBM conducted its bi-annual CEO study in 2010, they found a significant shift
in the role technology is playing in both simplifying and complicating our lives and
our work.  In 2004, it was an issue, but ranked 6th on the list of external factors
that impact businesses.  Today, it ranks second, right behind market factors.  So
technology is becoming more than just a tool to help us work faster, better,
smarter.  It's becoming a major force in accelerating the flow of information, that
can both help us find better data, and also hinder us when we get inundated.  In
some ways it's both a blessing and a curse.

Technology is always on, and consequently, so are we!  Consider the list of
technology today that didn't exist just 10 years ago: Wi-Fi, YouTube, Facebook, GPS,
iPad, iPhone, Twitter, online music, books and movie, and more. Internet use has
SEXTUPLED (6x greater) over the past decade and the average computer user checks 40
websites a day, and we consume almost three times the amount of information that a
typical person consumed in 1960.

Here's another example of how work is becoming more mobile, which comes from a study
done by a large tech company about remote work in the US.  They wanted to understand
workers who are "remote" or who are mobile outside of the office and what they found
is that 62% of businesses have remote workers, and of their total workforce 34% work
away from the office, but as you can see they're out of the office 40% of the time -
which means that 60% of the time they are in the workplace and need a space to
support how they work.

Another reason they're in the workplace is that even with the myriad devices and
virtual social networking tools, people still need people!  Collaboration is key to
a successful business relationships.  Having spaces where you bump into others and
build trust and networks is at the heart of collaboration.

As designers, it is our responsibility to continue to watch this trend and better
understand the relationships between technology and collaboration as well as their
influence on the Workplace.


Source “A Promising Year for Technology & Innovation” HBR 12/2010
IBM CEO Study, 2010
Worldwide Mobile Worker Population 2009-2013 Forecast, IDC (International Data
Corporation, which is a global market intelligence firm)

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