April 08, 2021
In the past 12 months, digitization and automation have been the two most often discussed technologies firm leaders are leveraging to transform the way they support core business activities and help companies adapt to a new and more virtual workstyle.
If you can do it virtually, then do it. If it can be digital, it should be digital
The concept of universal virtuality means that anything that can be virtual should be virtual. Firms should embrace the idea of their workplaces being constantly in ‘beta’, with long-term flexibility embedded in the space so they can adapt to changing circumstances. This will require careful thinking about the relationship between spatial settings and technology infrastructure; cabling or access to power is often a limiting factor in terms of being able to physically change the layout of a space.
Virtualization is both a driver and an effect of digitization and automation. Therefore, to become more virtual, businesses need to reduce their reliance on paper and reduce human reliance on repetitive tasks – and once the workplace becomes more virtual we will need more digitization and automation.
Companies are starting with digitized mailrooms
Going digital will take several forms, but some of the first areas to be affected will be laborious, time-intensive activities. A quick win can be found in the mailroom as mail processing often depends on repetitive identification, sorting and routing tasks. Tasks that are a good fit for automation as many machine solutions can complete tasks defined by rigid parameters faster and more accurately than humans.
Digital mailroom solutions, which leverage digital technology and process mail with little human intervention have already achieved this and as more employees are working virtually, their adoption is increasing throughout the world. These solutions vary, but often scanning letters and emailing them straight to recipients can be done easily and the process can also be performed in reverse if required. This will be one of the easiest ways for companies to become more virtual; digitizing physical mail is low-hanging fruit for those who want to begin automating and virtualizing their processes.
Virtual administrative services: Paving the way to upskill administrative roles
Administrative and secretarial occupations are ripe for virtualization and automation, as they often involve recurrent, repetitive tasks. Companies have already begun utilizing workflow service tools to manage virtual administrative services for tasks such as meeting room bookings, travel, calendar management and document management. This has proven to improve processes and efficiency in this area, and we expect this trend of having humans and machines work together, each doing tasks that they are best suited to, will continue. This frees up human time for more complex work that machines cannot do and creates jobs elsewhere. Businesses are recognizing the benefits and in the future many of these activities will evolve accordingly.
A more virtual world doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing culture
Even though trends are indicating a rise in the digital workplace, we crave social interaction and many of us will eventually return to the office to some extent and re-ignite face-to-face collaboration. However, now that remote working has become a more accepted and permanent feature in the work location mix, firms will seek more ways to keep staff engaged. This will include strengthening the connection to managers and colleagues in different locations and more focused initiatives to build the workforce community and will come to the fore as firms try to maintain a sense of connection and cohesion despite a lack of physical presence.
These features will combine to change the types of incentives that firms will offer to the younger generations so that the workforce will continue to feel motivated while working in disparate locations. Meeting this challenge will help firms to attract and retain the most talented members of the workforce.
Find out more in our next blog, where we highlight our findings on the rise of tailored working – as universal virtuality, automation, digitization and a focus on culture combine to change the types of incentives that firms will offer to encourage a motivated workforce, attract and retain top talent, and forge a pathway to success.
For a more in-depth look at the workplace of the future, download our latest report on the future of work.
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