The world of work has seen a huge shift during the pandemic, as millions left their offices and set up their desks in the familiar walls of their home. Two years later, workplaces are still adapting to this change as organizations try to get the best out of employees and reach their desired outcomes.
This has created an environment where HR and workplace technology companies are becoming incredibly popular in the stock market and on the devices of employees. However, questions still linger about the need for certain technologies and the best ways to navigate the new world.
UNLEASH was fortunate enough to speak to Michael Karner, Google’s chief workspace evangelist, about the changing role of technology in the workplace and what he sees as the key technologies for 2022.
On a day-to-day basis, Karner provides thought leadership on “what the future of work from Google Cloud’s perspective may look like, and representing this vision across the globe at events and during customer engagements.”
The future of the workplace
Karner tells UNLEASH how envisions the future of work: “The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated our use of technology. Two years ago, few companies were thinking about offering hybrid or remote work options for their employees; now it’s an expectation.
“I have regular conversations on the future of work with chief human resource officers (CHRO) across the globe, they confirm that hybrid or remote working concepts will become the norm for the majority of enterprises.
“Our focus at Google Cloud is to support organizations to enable their employees to work from anywhere securely and to drive innovation and collaboration from any device. That will be mandatory for the evolving future of work.”
In terms of the technology that Google is rolling out to support these remote functions, Karner explains: “We recently announced the general availability of Companion mode and live translated captions in Google Meet, as well as new flexible options to set custom rules in Google Voice.
With Google Voice, people can decide how they want incoming calls to be handled including the ability to automate video calls or set specific voicemails for individual contacts.
“Also, AppSheet, our no-code platform, is evolving with more ready-to-use templates. These sorts of innovations will fuel new ways of working in 2022 and beyond”, adds Karner.
The development of this technology reflects a changing landscape that is continuing to shift amid a pandemic that has rocked the economy.
Technology in the pandemic
Karner explains what issues he has seen in the pandemic and how technology has had an impact: “We helped a lot of organizations create and establish successful work from home platforms.
“Often even large enterprises did not have the right tools in place—like larger scalable VPNs or collaboration suites—that allowed their employees to work from anywhere.”
As a result of a lack of fit-for-purpose tools, Karner notes that teams at Google Workspace had to show the advantages of working in a fully browser-based environment.
Nonetheless, issues don’t end by moving to browser documents.
Karner reflects: “I’m hearing from HR leaders around the world that candidates, especially those in younger generations, are asking for more flexible working options.
“It’s clear that people across all industries and organizations want to be able to work and collaborate from anywhere.
“This poses a challenge for organizations that are still not ready to adopt new ways of working, as they may lose out on hiring and retaining great talent.”
Acknowledging challenges is an important step in improving the experience of employees, but there are also tangible steps that can be taken.
Improving your workplace now
Karner discusses the challenges and goals he sees in the workplace right now: “In all the conversations I’ve had with CHROs in the last couple of months, I’ve heard a few anticipated trends.
“First, there will be more fully remote jobs to meet the demand and the changing conversations between employers and employees.
“We’ll also see the reimagining of the physical workplace. With employees working in hybrid roles, companies will need to think of their office space as modular, configuring them for the individual and group uses that will continue to evolve.”
Karner comments that he is excited about how Google Workforce can help people in this environment create ideas, build, and collaborate in this environment.
More broadly, Karner offers sage advice for all businesses looking to invest in technology and improve their workplaces: “I’d say start with the user.”
He expands: “Instead of looking at off-the-shelf technologies that force people to adapt to antiquated ways of working, start by understanding how your people want to work and how that will evolve.
“What are their challenges and what are their current strengths? From there, as you develop a list of potential technologies, I would also take a future-outlook approach and think about the need for flexibility, and ‘work from anywhere’ will only become more prevalent.
Karner concludes “flexibility should always be the foundation for assessing new technologies”, and given the current climate it is hard to argue with this mantra.
If you’re on the fence about technology that will enable more flexible working arrangements, now is the time to act before costly retention and productivity issues begin to appear.