The new year’s new workplace realities will present workers with geographic and technological options for getting their work done in an effective and timely manner. Here are three of my prognostications for what we’ll see in the next twelve months.
Prediction #1: We’ll See the Rise of the Flexible Workplace and Workforce
2022 will be the “Year of the Flexible Workplace,” offering both new fluidities to working schedules and environments and lots of trial and error as businesses settle into these new workplace realities. While the term “hybrid” has been closely identified with the new workplace realities, many of us prefer the term “flexible.” Hybrid is defined as “something that is formed by combining two or more things,” and while the new workforce will be a combination of people working in the office and/or remotely, it’s more about flexibility than simply combining two work styles. In the past 24 months we learned that remote or at-home work works, and in many cases there’s no longer a need to be physically present in a company’s headquarters or branch office. A large portion of workers are never going back to the office.
As I noted in a previous No Jitter article, I expect 33% of workers to be back in the workplace full time, 33% will be remote full time, and 33% will split their workweek between in-office and remote locations. These in-office days will be used for collaboration and brainstorming, meeting with customers, and performing tasks that aren’t effective when executed remotely.
Throughout 2022, forward-thinking organizations will replace the rigid 8-5 workday with flexible hours, providing a better semblance of work-life balance. Workers will be judged on their output and productivity, rather than the hours spent sitting at their desks. These organizations will reap the benefits of more happy and satisfied workers, resulting in lower employee attrition, which is essential in the age of the “Great Resignation.” Those who maintain rigid work styles with micromanaging supervisors who focus on hours logged in rather than actual output will find higher levels of employee dissatisfaction and turnover.
Flexibility will be key as organizations figure out what works and what doesn’t as some workers slowly begin returning to the office. 2022 will be a year of trial and error, as the flexible/hybrid workplace is new territory for most businesses. While we muddled through the past 20-24 months and made the best of the situation, many organizations provided band-aids to stop the bleeding rather than considering long-term solutions. As we move into 2022, organizations must think more long-term and strategically rather than tactically. Mistakes will be made. But eventually businesses will get it right and figure out how to make flexible/hybrid work succeed.
Prediction #2: AR, VR, and the Metaverse Turn Work into Immersive Experiences
Get ready for Immersive Experiences based on augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Thanks to Microsoft Mesh for Teams and Cisco Webex Hologram, we‘ve begun seeing the first wave of immersive conferencing and collaboration using AR and VR technologies. During its Ignite 2021 event, Microsoft hinted at what collaboration in the metaverse can look like with Mesh for Teams providing 2D and 3D meeting experiences with personalized avatars. Similarly, during its WebexOne event, Cisco announced its augmented reality platform Webex Hologram, combining Webex meeting functionality with AR hardware to create immersive 3D holograms of meeting participants.
I expect other unified communications, conferencing, and collaboration vendors to follow in the coming months. Of course, at this point, it’s unknown whether avatars are appropriate for business collaboration or if this is just a fad that won’t take off similar to Second Life.
I also expect to see a rush of merger and acquisition activity for AR/VR software vendors, as conferencing and collaboration vendors will swoop in to acquire companies that can provide these immersive capabilities. For many conferencing and collaboration vendors, it will be easier to buy rather than build AR/VR capabilities, and companies like Flex, VSight, and others will be attractive to traditional collaboration vendors.
The next step beyond AR/VR is the metaverse. Now that Meta, née Facebook, along with Microsoft and others, have made us all aware of the metaverse, all types of businesses will try to figure out where they fit and how to position themselves. These companies will spend much of 2022 explaining what the metaverse is all about, where the “enterprise metaverse” fits, and the benefits of using virtual presence and avatars to collaborate with colleagues.
2022 will be a year of market positioning for the metaverse, as companies try to stake out a role. Similar to the early days of unified communications, vendors will define the metaverse differently, positioning themselves as leaders in this new space. Their definitions of the metaverse will be based on the capabilities that they provide, creating fear, uncertainty, doubt (FUD) and confusion.
Prediction #3: Voice Control Will Come to the Office
Using voice to control devices and get information isn’t new, but as people slowly return to the office as COVID-19 continues raging, we’ll see an increase in voice control usage. Voice control tools, such as Alexa for Business, will increasingly be used to manage devices, control conferencing systems, check room availability, book rooms, and more – all with just using voice. Voice control will also become a key mode for initiating tasks, which will be both a blessing and a curse (“No Alexa, don’t book a flight for me – I’m talking to Alex about his vacation.”)
And of course, we’ll see new acronyms added to our business vocabularies – Immersive Experience (IX), Metaverse Experience (MX), Virtual Reality as a Service (VRaaS), Immersive Metaverse Experience as a Service (IMXaaS), and so on.
For now, wishing you Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year (HHHNY).