To you and me, the transformation seems gradual. Your business acquires more sophisticated tools, walls begin to disappear and fax machines vanish. First, your workforce trades in their pressed suits for business casual khakis, then jeans and, now, occasionally even shorts. On any given workday, only about two-thirds of your team is working in the office. The change is steady, like most sustainable paradigm shifts.
But imagine for a moment plucking your grandfather out of his mid-century office and dropping him in the middle of an ultramodern workspace. Would he even know he was at work? Would he recognize anything? Or would he spend hours searching for his Rolodex, typewriter and carbon paper?
The way human beings work is changing rapidly. And when you’re caught up in the thick of it, distracted by your various obligations and monitoring your bottom line, it’s not always apparent. In fact, right at this moment, monolithic workplace trends are pushing modern businesses further into the future. Are you ahead of the pack?
To maintain your competitive advantage, you have to stay on top of workplace trends. Here are five big tech trends currently reshaping the way you and I do work—forevermore.
1. Automation is Taking Over the Grunt Work
Automation is nothing new. For generations, humans have been seeking machines to take over repetitive tasks and free up more time and headspace for creativity and innovation. Thanks to the advancement of the Internet, we’ve kicked automation into high gear.
From triggered emails that help sales and marketing teams engage customers 24/7 and document management software that streamlines HR processes to robots that fill warehouse orders, automation is expanding into every department. Even lunch orders can be automated.
And while critics feel massive automation will remove humans from the equation, this shift will merely redefine our roles. Instead of being sidetracked by menial tasks, employees can focus on the big picture, million-dollar ideas that will drive your business forward.
2. Everything is Measurable
One of the benefits of this proliferation of automation—and technology in general—is the heaps of data we can now access. Instead of simply guessing how your efforts translate into revenue, you can track each and every action. You can literally assign value to each step of your supply chain.
From sophisticated project time tracking to energy consumption reports generated by your thermostat connected to the Wi-Fi, you can pinpoint the biggest drains on your resources and make more educated, data-backed decisions.
3. Collaboration is a Priority
There’s a reason there are so few walls in the modern office, why conference rooms are becoming cozier and why break rooms look more like your home’s eat-in kitchen.
Thanks to all the automation and improved technology, employees have more time to collaborate—and they realize its value. According to an infographic published by Queens University of Charlotte, nearly three in four employers rank teamwork and collaboration as a top priority.
By creating a culture of collaboration—and a workplace that reflects it—you can inspire your teams to cooperate more effectively and climb outside their departmental silos.
4. Time and Space Constraints are Disappearing
In the modern workplace, “9-to-5” has become a dirty word. Millennials actively avoid businesses that restrict work hours to traditional times in favor of organizations that offer more flexible scheduling.
In fact, according to survey by Bentley University, 77 percent of millennials say flex hours would make them more productive with a whopping 89 percent admitting to regularly checking email “after hours.” This generation prefers to work when their minds are sharpest. For some this is 10 a.m., but for others it’s 2 a.m.
And why shouldn’t they? Cloud computing, video calling, instant messaging and other technologies mean employees can inexpensively work whenever, and wherever, they wish.
5. Security Measures are Catching Up with Risks
Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find a business that hasn’t been a victim of a security breach, or at least a close call. It’s the downfall to the age of Big Data—with so much sensitive information ripe for the taking it’s no wonder there is a malware threat discovered every 4 seconds. And, according to a report by Intel, among data breaches, insider threats are responsible for 43 percent of data loss.
Workplace security measures, such as visitor management software, sensor badges and system-wide encryption, are becoming more advanced. And while data security risks continue to rise, security technology does, too.
Bringing It Together
As a business leader, it’s difficult to keep pace with the myriad trends taking place around you every day. But falling short could mean slipping behind competitors—and seeing your best players leaving to join a more innovative team. By working together with your facilities leader to integrate better workplace technology, you can usher in these trends ahead of schedule and make an impact on the way you and your teams perform today, and well into tomorrow.
Editor's Note: This post was previously published on Inc.com and has been republished here with permission.