The way we work is evolving—and in order for employees to perform at the highest level, CIOs will need to be strategic when planning the evolution of the workstation.
But what, exactly, does that look like?
Tony George is the Chief Operating Office of Denver-based advertising agency LRXD, where he manages all things information, computer, and technology-related. We asked George for his insights into how the workstation is changing, what the future holds, and how CIO’s can evolve their workstation to empower their team’s best work. Here’s what he had to say:
How the pandemic changed the employee workstation
The way we work has been evolving for years—but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it accelerated that shift, forcing many companies to move from a primarily in-office environment to a fully remote one.
And in order to successfully make that transition, businesses had to rethink the evolution of the workstation and incorporate new tools that made remote collaboration possible. And now, as many businesses make another transition to a hybrid work environment—and welcome employees back into the office at least a few days a week—they’re also having to rethink their physical workstations.
“Before COVID, we were primarily a ‘work from the office’ culture, with some tools in place in case someone needed to work remotely,” says George. “Post-COVID, we’ve moved to a hybrid model, where we have leased a smaller space meant for collaboration and other important meetings.”
“Within that space, we’ve outfitted about 10 ‘jump stations’ that allow employees to quickly plug in their laptops and work in shorter bursts,” continues George. “However, most of our staff has expressed the need to continue to work from home for some of the typical workweek…[which] means that we’ve had to dig deeper into collaborative tools.”
Also read: Are We Witnessing The Death Of The Office?
How is the workstation evolving? What’s the future of the employee workstation?
While the pandemic may have been the catalyst for more companies moving towards a remote or hybrid work model, that shift is here to stay—and that means focusing the evolution of the workstation on supporting employees and fostering productivity wherever they may be.
The most important element to consider when designing the future employee workstation is “collaboration, collaboration, collaboration,” says George. “A new era of remote employees is upon us, even if it’s just one teammate at a time. This [shift] has been happening for a while, but now with major players seeing the light—and millions more remote workers embracing the model—nimble collaboration tools will need to evolve, quickly.”
“This applies to asynchronous and synchronous messaging and videoconferencing software/hardware, online ‘whiteboards,’ lighting, sound equipment, interfaces beyond the traditional screen, and a million other technologies that we’re just starting to scratch the surface of,” continues George.
Choosing the right tools for the evolving workstation
Clearly, CIOs need to reevaluate the tools they’re including in their employee workstations—and choose tools that will allow their teams to collaborate and get things done whether they’re in the office, working remotely, or some combination of the two.
Also read: How to Choose the Right Collaborative Tool?
And while there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to choosing the “right” tools for the workstation (the best tools will depend on the company, the team, and the team’s needs), when evaluating potential tools, the best thing you can do is look at it from multiple angles.
“Choosing our technology is a function of price, features, compatibility with our existing tools, and ease of use,” says George. “When we see a need or gap that we think technology can fill, we’ll have a small group look into available solutions and report back with a recommendation.”
If you have existing tools that work well for your team, looking at other offerings from the same company can be a good place to start.
“And if it’s another product offering from one of the companies that are part of our existing ecosystem, all the better,” says George.
But you’ll want to be careful not to get too caught up in only using all-in-one tools—or tools from a single company. If there are more efficient options from other companies, those options are worth exploring.
“In a perfect world, we’d use all-in-one tools,” says George. “But if the tool is inferior, we aren’t afraid to use another tool that we think is superior.”
Just keep in mind that “avoiding the collection of too many best-of-breed tools that don’t talk to each other [is a must],” says George. “There are cost implications, it’s difficult to onboard and master so many diverse toolsets, and there is a loss in efficiency if your tools don’t talk to each other.”
Tips to make sure the workstation is evolving in a way that empowers your team’s best work
Looking for more suggestions on how to evolve your workstation—and empower your team’s best work in the process? Here are George’s top tips:
- Get your team involved. Your employees are going to be the people using your workstations—so if you want your changes to be successful, involve them in the process. “Empower the staff to be involved in these choices, so they have some stake in the outcome,” says George. “It’s much easier to get the team to adopt the tools if they are invested. Surveys are a significant first step in assessing needs and allowing people to feel heard.”
- Test out new tools. You may think a tool or software is the right fit for your team—but you won’t know until you test it. Before you implement a new tool on a company-wide scale, do a smaller test run to make sure it’s the tool your workstation needs. “Pilot the [new] tool on a project before rolling it out more broadly,” says George.
- Use training to get everyone on the same page. In order to successfully integrate a new tool into your workstation, you need to get everyone trained and on the same page. “Find someone to own training on that tool, and have that person teach everyone in the same way,” says George. “That [way], you’re all using the tool in a similar fashion.”
- Adjust and adapt as necessary. Once you’ve implemented a change to your workstation, you’ll want to monitor it to make sure it’s working for your team—and, if not, adjust and adapt as necessary. “Don’t be afraid to reassess and change if it’s not the right fit,” says George.
The workstation is changing and evolving—and what works today may not work tomorrow. So, as a CIO, if you want to continually empower your team’s best work, the best thing you can do? Be flexible, adaptable, and open to change. “Technology is continually evolving,” says George. “So maintaining flexibility—and the willingness to try and adopt new technology—allows you to stay ahead of the pack.”
Are you looking to implement a new collaborative solution within your company? Check out our comparison of the best collaboration tools:
Author: Deanna deBara