A new culture of work is emerging. In the next several years, millennials will make over 50% of the workforce, the World Economic Forum is talking about the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and AI-powered automatization becomes a reality of millions of professionals around the world. According to the ‘The Future of Jobs’ report prepared by a WEF, almost 1 million jobs are in jeopardy. At the same time, 1.74 million new jobs are emerging, but they may be a challenge for both employers and employees, as the new roles require upskilling or reskilling.
The workforce has also become more flexible and geographically distributed. With the rise of collaboration with independent contractors, companies need to be equipped with comprehensive tools that allow efficient teamwork among all team members – and it doesn’t matter if someone works from the same open space as their colleagues, or maybe from a coworking space in Bali. No wonder that a new approach to management and operations is inevitable. At Meritum Cloud, the solutions we offer as a Microsoft Gold Partner answer the needs of the modern workplace.
A 9-to-5 job in the office, a clear career path, working at the same place for long stints – what used to be common, is still the reality of a large, but a constantly shrinking group of people. On the other hand, terms like distributed teams, gig economy, and digital transformation are not just buzzwords being used to describe a distant future – they are the significant drivers of change in the modern workplace. According to the aforementioned World Economic Forum’s report, cloud technology, widespread adoption of big data and artificial intelligence will positively affect business growth by 2020.
Let’s take a look at the most important trends that have already started to shape labor markets around the world.
Gig economy, distributed teams, and flexibility they offer
It is estimated that 43% of the US workforce will become freelancers by 2020. Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork, a giant Californian platform that matches businesses and independent professionals, says that the growth of the freelance workforce is three times faster than the traditional workforce. And we’re not talking about freelance moonlighters – their number is shrinking. More and more people make a living as independent professionals and freelancing is their only source of income. What seems to be an American phenomenon doesn’t steer clear of Europe. In fact, the booming freelance business is a quiet labor revolution in Europe, particularly in the Netherlands, Poland, France, and the UK. Half of the British HR managers expect that freelancers will make at least 20% of the workforce in the UK by 2020. Almost 80% of executives interviewed by Mercer expect that freelancers will substantially replace full-time employees in the coming years.
Although working from home has usually been associated with freelancers, more and more companies allow their employees to work remotely, from their home offices or from a distant location. There are 2 major groups of professionals who embrace this kind of employment. First, parents of small children, people with disabilities or those living in areas where the job market is difficult. Most of them work from home. The second group is called digital nomads and usually, they aim to combine a career with travelling or willing to live on a different continent.
The rapid growth of freelancers and employees working remotely is a challenge from many perspectives. First, in terms of social security and healthcare, especially in the US and among digital nomads. It also requires a shift in management and operations. How to manage a distributed team whose members never see each other in person? How to keep them connected, make them a team instead of a set of individual professionals? How to make sure they’ll productively work on a project together? These are not easy questions, but open-minded and data-driven managers with the support from efficient office tools may be the answer.
A need for higher productivity
Rapid changes in the work environment also have an impact on people’s productivity. When Mercer asked over 7300 professionals, including C-suite executives, if they are planning an organizational redesign that is focused on productivity, almost all of them answered positively.
It shouldn’t be surprising to everyone who is familiar with the most recent statistics about the declining productivity of office workers. On average, they suffer interruptions every 3 minutes, feel urged to check their mailboxes 30 times per hour and spend 20% of their time trying to find the information or resources they need to do their jobs. Employees distracted by tens of mobile notifications, unnecessary emails, social media and constant noise in a workplace that is often an open space, equates to billions of lost dollars for businesses.
Although mobile devices seem to be a number 1 productivity killers, there is data that suggests that the organisations that use mobile technology effectively have more engaged employees. Even if this may sound like a coincidence, there is a lot of evidence that high productivity is linked to flexibility. The UK is famous for a high (over 50) percentage of employees who claim that they are much more productive when working from home than from the office. Respondents claim that the ability to work from any location at any time, to access information quickly and easily and the ability to collaborate with colleagues effectively are top factors that have the greatest impact on their productivity. At the same time, 75% of American professionals complain that their employers don’t give them access to the latest technology to do their jobs efficiently.
It may be difficult to fight with distractions caused by social media but allowing people to access and edit relevant documents easily and to communicate with the other members is the clue to productivity. Microsoft is a good example of a company that fully understands it. Not only in terms of their operations, but also as software providers – Microsoft 365 is a comprehensive solution for productive teamwork.
A modern workplace with Microsoft 365
With the rise of remote working and virtual distributed teaming, it is more crucial than ever to provide tools that facilitate work, make it intuitive and digitally enabled. At the same time, we all know that tools may be a double-edged sword because when used inappropriately, they can distract and decrease the team’s productivity. Luckily, there is a way to overcome it and to get the right tools that work as a hub for teamwork.
At Meritum Cloud we are big fans of Microsoft 365 solutions. Combining them with the power of the cloud makes teamwork easy and productive – even when the team members never share an office.
Now let’s look at how technology can accelerate change and how Microsoft 365 addresses the needs of modern workplaces.
Microsoft 365: An overview
Microsoft 365 is an all-in-one comprehensive platform that consists of Office 365, Windows 10 Pro, and Enterprise Mobility+Security. It’s suitable particularly for SMBs that want to set up their work environment as fast as possible.
Office 365 is a robust and easily accessible collaboration and communication platform hosted in the cloud. It contains fully installed web, mobile, and desktop apps, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, OneDrive, SharePoint, Microsoft Teams, and more, depending on the chosen plan (for home, for business, for education).
SharePoint is a homepage for your company. Your team can discover the content they need, company updates and notes, manage their daily routine; create lists, documents, document libraries, and more.
OneDrive is an all-in-one cloud service, perfect to store, sync, share and access files from any device, in a secure way.
Microsoft Office: The most popular tools
Word (word processor), Excel (spreadsheet editor), and PowerPoint (presentation program) are highly efficient best-in-class web and desktop applications, used worldwide.
Microsoft Teams is a hub for teamwork. Different teams can use different channels and chats to communicate, share files, and stay in touch with company news. Synchronised with Outlook, Microsoft Teams allows scheduling meetings and having calls and videoconferences.
Yammer is a company’s social network. It is a communication tool that can also work as a knowledge base and an internal social media site.
Outlook puts email, contacts, calendar, and tasks together, in one place. It allows previewing a Linkedin profile of people you contact and to upload attachments directly from OneDrive.
Microsoft 365: Let the right set tools address the needs of the organizations
Challenge: Team members spend too much time on finding the documents that are necessary to do their jobs.
Solution: Microsoft 365 provides an AI-powered search that, when combined with company-wide data allows the employee to find relevant documents in a few seconds. Documents can then be easily imported to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.
Challenge: Team leaders and scrum masters often use whiteboards and handwritten notes at meetings. They take photos and upload them later to the online drive, and then struggle to find the right documents.
Solution: Storing files on OneDrive and SharePoint lets you use the abovementioned AI-powered search even on the images. The intelligent search can identify text written on whiteboards, receipts, and in notebooks.
Challenge: A company cooperates with gig workers from all around the world and allow their employees to work remotely – not only from home but also while travelling to distant locations. Managers struggle to keep everyone in the loop.
Solution: Distributed teams require highly efficient all-in-one collaboration and communication tools. Microsoft Teams can keep a distributed team together, including external consultants and freelancers. Team members are free to form teams in various channels and to discuss their projects there. It also allows everyone to use not only the tools provided by Microsoft but also external software that is necessary to get the work done, like Adobe Creative Cloud, Github or Survey Monkey. All the files are automatically stored on SharePoint so everyone who has access can view, edit, or comment on them – no matter the location, time zone or device. Moreover, Microsoft Teams facilitates calls and video conferences, which, when organised inefficiently or facing technical issues, can be a number 1 productivity killers. The tool not only allows for rich audio and video meetings but even automatically transcribes and then distributes the notes to the group.
Challenge: Team members are free to work from any place they want, both in the office and outside it. They work on laptops, tablets, and smartphones – whatever device is handier at the point in time. Sometimes it is a bottleneck because of the limited functions of a mobile version of the tools they use and because of the problems with synchronising.
Solution: When work happens on the go, it’s impossible to keep all the files on computers located in the office. Microsoft 365 applications are mobile-friendly and thanks to the document synchronisation there is no difference on what devices you or your employees prefer to work. As we all know how easily people can get distracted while using mobile devices, AI-powered Outlook filters important emails from those that can wait for a better moment to reply.
Challenge: In a big organization people don’t know each other and struggle to find people from other teams whose expertise would help in specific projects.
Solution: Combining Office 365, Teams, and Yammer with Linkedin makes it incredibly easy to find a professional with the required skills – both inside and outside the organization.
“Work experience and ways of working are becoming increasingly reliant on mobile, interconnected devices and advanced digital technology. Employees expect to have a digital experience at work similar to the one they have at home.” – this quote from the PwC’s report ‘Rethinking HR for the future of work’ seems to be a perfect summary of the modern workplace. Meritum Cloud with Microsoft 365 is ready for the change. Are you? Get in touch.