Three ways technology will transform how we collaborate

What does the virtual meeting of the future look like? Hint—it won’t be a conference call.

Technology platforms are already bringing people and information together in ways unimaginable even ten years ago. Greater adoption of virtual and augmented reality and other technologies will continue to transform the way we connect and collaborate with each other, whether you’re together in person or working remotely.

The workplace of the future will feature a greater variety of spaces where employees can work and socialize. Within those spaces, technology will enable more immersive collaboration with individuals outside the office walls—from colleagues across the ocean, to team members working from home and freelancers engaged for short-term projects. Here are the three ways we foresee change:

1. Experiential workplaces will accelerate innovation

The purpose of office environments will change as companies reposition themselves to stay competitive in the face of rapid change, as detailed in JLL’s report, Workspace, Reworked. The office will become the hub of value creation where employees and outside experts come to create and collaborate, supported by technologies like virtual and augmented reality.

The purpose of office environments will change as companies reposition themselves to stay competitive in the face of rapid change.

When innovation is front and center, the most successful companies will provide a wide variety of spaces that meet employee needs, including a well-designed selection of technology-enabled quiet rooms, collaborative workspaces, short-term breakout spots and social areas for accidental encounters. Some innovative workplace designers are taking cues from the retail world, creating technology-enabled, collaborative and high-quality experiential workplaces.

Accelerator, incubator and innovation space will be widely deployed in real estate portfolios to allow firms to work with startups, partners and researchers to develop new products, services and ideas. What does this look like? General Electric provides a clue. The engineering giant has launched a number of startup incubators, GE Garages, where it provides startups with access to 3D printers, computerized numerical control machines and laser cutters, as well as expert advice and potential partnerships.

2. More face-to-face interaction will happen virtually across geographies

With an increasing liquid workforce and greater acceptance of remote work, knowledge workers have grown accustomed to working with teams virtually. In the workplace of the future, the conference call as we know it will get kicked up a notch. A geographically dispersed team of office workers could meet ‘face to face’ in cyberspace using virtual reality headsets—almost as if they were physically together. With the addition of sensor technologies, team members could even respond to body language and other non-verbal communication.

Companies like Microsoft, Magic Leap, Facebook and others are developing three-dimensional (3D) headsets and applications that will allow collaboration via 3D avatars, similar to those used in online gaming. While gaming avatars typically may not resemble the gamer, office avatars might eventually be photorealistic versions of real workers within the next generation of augmented and virtual reality-based work.

Future adoption of automation, virtual reality, augmented reality and experiential internet technologies will further collaboration. Emerge, part of Cisco’s innovation lab, has experimented with a virtual reality telepresence system that pairs a headset in one location with a robot head in another, allowing the user to look around and experience a meeting as though they were there. Microsoft has demonstrated how its HoloLens could be used to allow meetings to take place through ‘holoportation’ – augmented reality projections of a person that can move around a space as though they were there. As these systems come down in price, they will become standard technology in the workplace.

3. ‘Social everything’ will enable real-time collaboration

Technology is also transforming the way we collaborate outside organized meetings. Companies both big and small will continue to inject a social element into every product and service to facilitate internal employee collaboration and external customer engagement—a trend dubbed ‘social everything.’ Platforms such as wikis, blogs, Web conferencing, Jabber and Yammer are enabling new social interactions.

These social technologies also create massive amounts of data as we share a never-ending stream of content. The cloud provides the infrastructure that makes the information accessible, while the social technology platform helps to organize the data and facilitate access to information. ‘Smart’ mobile devices provide the means of connectivity, enabling multiple networks of digital knowledge workers to perform their work at any time and from anywhere. Not only can workers access large data sets and perform complex tasks outside of the corporate facility, they can collaborate with each other in real time through social platforms.

Technology is raising worker expectations about how and where work can be performed. Is your company prepared for the new wave of technology-enabled collaboration?

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