Five observations CommBank innovation researchers see in the future of work

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It’s no surprise that technology, connectivity and flexibility are trends influencing the way we work.

We’re seeing flexibility from businesses as they approach the design of their processes, products and space, and from employees as they react to the profound changes being wrought by technology and new business practices.

1) Wearables and big data are integrated in our daily working lives

Many people already use sensors to collect information on their lives, such as their sleeping patterns, heart rates during exercise and kilometres walked. But researchers at the Commonwealth Bank see this trend extending to the wider economy.

In fact, wearables and sensory data are already common in industries like mining and logistics, where safety is paramount. According to Tiziana Bianco, Head of Global Innovation Labs, Commonwealth Bank, this is just the start of what can be accomplished with data.
“Employers focussing on this area can really help their employees maintain their health and wellbeing, helping them reach their full potential in the workplace.”

An example of this data in action could be moving from the amount of hours worked as a proxy for state of mind and physical condition, to more accurate and data-driven insights on how employees are feeling.
“There are whole new ways we can use this data to help our employees make the most of their talents,” says Bianco.

2) Continuous learning

New ways of incorporating technology, such as automation and artificial intelligence, into our work lives will lead to an expectation of continuous learning.

“For employees to be equipped with the right skills and knowledge, they can’t stop with a university education. Reskilling and continuing to learn through the course of their careers is something we have seen for a while, this will only continue to become the norm,” says Bianco.

Bianco says employees will move from project to project making valuable contributions based on the expertise they can provide on that given assignment, irrespective of traditional job title.

Education can take place in numerous ways, through self-directed learning and reading, a quick, targeted “nano degree” or through one of the numerous just in time courses and learning companies that have proliferated the market.

Employees that keep learning and reskilling will be incredibly valuable for businesses, coupling new capabilities with proven experience and harnessing new technologies to add value.

3) Increased work life balance and flexibility

The mobile revolution has already broken down many of the barriers between work and the rest of your life. Many of us are always-on, able to work from anywhere and at any time.

“Work and life is becoming more integrated. With smartphones, many employers are taking the approach that it’s about the output and quality of work rather than having to be at the office from 9-5,” says Bianco.

“There’s little stopping companies liberating their employees from defined hours and workspaces. If you are a team that has great communication it shouldn’t matter where you are physically located, technology should enable quality communication and collaboration across geographies, teams and challenges.”

4) Dynamic work spaces

Paired with a more flexible approach to work is a more flexible approach to workspaces.

Corporates across all industries are embracing workspaces that adapt to different styles of collaboration – allowing employees to work in environments that most facilitates what they are trying to get accomplished.

“When you start empowering your staff to work in different places without line-of-sight management, you are focusing on what is important; the quality of the output.”

The new Mirvac and Commonwealth Bank buildings include quiet spaces for single work, standing and sitting environments, as well as places for teamwork and collaborating. Employees and teams are able to sit wherever they wish, the space and technology serving to empower rather than tether.

“Being told where to sit and with whom is a thing of the past. Turning up to work and selecting your seat based on what value you can add to that team or project will ultimately position employees to be most effective,” says Bianco.

5) The workspace devoted to collaborative working

Even as workplaces become more adaptable for the needs of the employee, the necessity to have a workspace is slowly shrinking.

Many companies, notably some technology companies, have already foregone offices entirely. Bianco sees the workspace of the future predominantly as a collaboration space, as technology enables more work to be done remotely.

“People will come in to the office predominantly to collaborate with others,” says Bianco.

“There will always be a need to connect with our colleagues, suppliers, business partners and clients and collaborate face to face is still the most desired, but technology will change the way offices work. You will find offices with a lot more think tank rooms and a more collaborative spaces.”

For Bianco, the only thing holding back these changes are the distribution of technology.

“A lot of the advantages of these changes don’t require wholesale office refurbishment, but greater access to mobile technologies and office policies that allow for their full use.”

This post is part of the Innovation Insights series, sponsored by CommBank. At CommBank we believe innovation starts by asking questions. Discover new ways to keep your business moving. Start today at