Author – Paul Kearns, Managing Director, Kefron
As the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out continues, the prospect of a return to the physical office in the coming months is once again coming into view. What we know for certain is that the office we left behind fourteen months ago will not be the office we return to this year.
With research from NUI Galway showing that 53% of employees in Ireland wish to work remotely several times a year, we will all need to rethink ‘the office’ and how it can support a significant number working from home in the long-term.
As a family-owned business with over 120 employees, this is something we have been focused on at Kefron for many months. During that time, it has become clear to me that the office is no longer confined to just four walls.
It is quickly becoming a hybrid space where employees can access information from any location securely so they can do their best work.
From talking to business leaders in Ireland and the UK in recent weeks, I’ve been struck by the continuing uncertainty over the future role of the office. Reflecting on our discussions with clients and observations over the past year below sets out some of the trends I’m predicting as we witness the gradual emergence of what we refer to at Kefron as the smarter office.
Although offices will exist, they will have a new purpose: to empower smart working. Rather than one physical location where employees are located, they will become smart working hubs that will foster connection and innovation.
Technology offering workers an array of productivity-enhancement features, from smart calendar-planning to project management, will see a major boost in usage. Some of these tools will replace some traditional managerial functions, such as time-tracking, while internal communication platforms will underpin collaboration.
Offices have been making efforts to become paper-free for years. Business leaders cite the cost, security issues, and environmental concerns associated with paper usage as major factors in wishing to eliminate paper needs. Advances in data storage and management software will allow businesses across the board to make the move to a paperless office.
Information has emerged as the most valuable asset for every organisation. Firms will embrace state-of-the-art methods for storing and managing their own information. Older, inefficient storage methods will become obsolete as organisations look to sustain a workforce that operates from smart working hubs and from home.
Organisations saw a sharp rise in cyber-attacks over the course of the pandemic, with an online crime in Ireland jumping by half in 2020 and incidents of fraud crime rising by nearly 20% in the last 12 months alone. No company is untouchable when it comes to fraud, but by automating processes and moving them online, businesses can ensure smart protection becomes a leadership priority.
Although I know organisations face many challenges over the coming months, the move to a smarter office offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform. To harness the power of digital technologies in order to create a workplace that is greener, safer, and more productive.