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video conferencingThe 2010 book The 2020 Workplace by Jeanne C. Meister and Karie Willyerd focused on how companies will “attract, develop and keep tomorrow’s employees today” by predicting workplace trends of the future.

The premise that the authors are working with to create their theoretical model was based on 5 key areas:

  1. Collaboration
  2. Authenticity
  3. Personalisation
  4. Innovation
  5. Social connection

These, the authors argue, will become central to working practices in 2020, with the office of the future looking pretty different to the office of today. Despite this, the authors seem to have got it pretty much bang on when it comes to how we will operate professionally and indeed, much of what they predict is already taking place.


Swiftly becoming the cornerstone of many companies, collaboration has been greatly enabled by technology in recent years. Although cloud technology is nothing new, the rapid uptake over the past couple of years has seen cloud becoming a popular choice for the modern workplace.

Real time file sharing, access to applications from anywhere, video collaboration and more are all coming together to increase productivity. Offices around the globe can connect to each other 24/7, hold virtual conferences and swap files as if they were in the same room.

The 2020 Workplace states that “traditional offices and nine-to-five work schedules will be largely passé” and that “employees will expect and demand robust internal and external online connections”.

The mobile office

Video collaboration enables this and last year a Polycom and Wainhouse survey found that the potential of this is already being exploited in many companies, with 94% of those asked reporting that video collaboration increases efficiency and productivity.

According to Polycom, this is because the “24 x 7 nature of business means workers are adapting to a new business reality. Business hours are less constrained and arguably run around the clock.”

However, these aren’t the only advantages to using video collaboration. Being able to conduct business in a ‘face to face’ manner means that it’s easier to judge what the recipient is thinking. Further to this, employees who can connect with partners and others in the company using video cements relationships with employers, employees and even clients.

Related White Paper: Beyond Enterprise Boundaries – Extending secure, high-performance video collaboration to any user, anywhere ]

Challenges of finding talent

The book predicts that the current talent shortage in IT will become more pronounced across all industries in the future and this means that social media will play an even bigger part in recruitment. Again, this is an area in which video conferencing will also be useful, giving employers the opportunity to interview candidates situated in any part of the world.

It’s also thought that companies will work much more with people based away from the office, with perhaps a smaller headquarters in one city to manage them. If we take a look at collaboration alongside the other predicted important aspects to work, then it’s easy to see why video will play a pivotal role in the business of the future.

Much of what the book discusses seems to indicate that the power will lie with employees more than the current set up, as personalised working plans and benefits are given, employees insist on working for those that match their own sense of corporate responsibility, elect their own leaders and future workplaces being seen as being “based on sharing and forming a community”.

This can’t be a bad thing and given the predicted shortage of high quality candidates, the future office looks like it could be a tough job if you’re in HR.

The diverse workplace

The 2020 Workplace   (PDF) certainly makes the future look rosy for the employee, with better work-life balance, a more diversified workplace that is inclusive of gender and race and a super-connected world enabling agile and flexible business.

In fact, the book makes the future workplace look like a kind of nirvana for the employee, who seems to be demanding more and getting it. I’ve always personally held the opinion that the employer that makes his staff happy is much more likely to succeed than one who doesn’t, so it’s surely not a bad thing.

Imagine the scene for the worker

He wakes up ready to start his day and wanders happily into his work area where he checks mail and looks at his day’s meetings. After a quick video call to the boss to discuss priorities, he prepares a presentation and then dials into the Hong Kong office for a virtual conference. Once he’s finished, he works on some documents in the cloud before sharing them for his colleagues in various offices to add to.

Perhaps he may physically go into the office, perhaps not. It doesn’t matter as he has his tablet and mobile and can be reached at any time, even when he’s out and about. What’s more, whilst he is out, he can easily connect to the office to monitor incoming files and update on the fly.

He takes the afternoon off and then gets back to work after dinner, as he wants to reach another colleague in the USA.

Of course, in practice, it may prove to be not quite so simple and laid back, but all of the signs are there to suggest that this is indeed the direction the work-life balance is going. In fact, some companies are already right there.

All-in-all, the majority of the predictions in The 2020 Workplace look to be already taking place. We’re seeing video and cloud collaboration being used extensively in enterprises, social is indeed finding its way into the enterprise and as for talent shortages, IT has been suffering for some time.

Social for recruitment, I refer you to LinkedIn, which is already used as a recruiting tool by many HR departments and recruitment specialists and of course mobile has helped to propel us into an “uber-connected” world.

What will be even more interesting will be how many more new technologies and ways of working we will see implemented before 2020 gets here.

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