smarter working
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We spoke to Kevin Turner, Digital Workplace Strategy Lead at Unisys, to find out his thoughts on flexible, collaborative and smarter working and how improved office technology has aided the movement towards not working more

Kevin Turner at Unisys is a visionary IT Service Management Lead with over 30 years’ international experience in delivering large-scale IT business change assignments. Kevin has well-honed presentation and communication skills allied with a sound record of delivery for network services, outsourced services, hosted services and storage, as well as traditional hardware, software and application services.

In this interview, Kevin shares his views on the extent to which modern workplaces support more flexibility and collaboration to give staff a better work/life balance. We also find out how improved office technology is aiding the movement towards smarter, not working more.

This interview also addresses Kevin’s views on the need for businesses to maintain a competitive advantage through addressing productivity. Finally, we gain insight into how smart working has become more common in recent years across the private and public sectors. Can it play an important part in meeting the challenge of doing more with less? Read on to find out more about this and many more areas.

To what extent do modern workplaces support more flexibility and collaboration to give staff a better work/life balance?

Today’s workers expect to be more mobile, to use the cloud and social tools that they are familiar with from their personal lives. Increasingly, they conduct business outside of the office – rather than being tied to a fixed office location, the modern workforce uses multiple devices ranging from desktops, tablets, smartphones to smart whiteboards to be productive. They are even beginning to use augmented reality and artificially intelligent bots to increase their productivity.

The digital worker expects to collaborate with colleagues, peers and customers scattered across different time zones and geographies. They expect to start working on a document using a laptop in the office, continue working on that document using a tablet while on the train and then review other people’s changes using their smartphone while at home. And when they are done, they expect to present the completed document on a smart screen at a client location.

All these technological advances are helping people prioritise demands on their time, from both work and non-work life, whilst delivering more effective results.

How is improved office technology aiding the movement towards smarter, not working more?

Improvements in technology have been constant for several decades and have even intensified in recent years. In fact, such advancements witnessed within the consumer (home) world are now becoming commonplace within Enterprise IT and the workplace.

The blend of both consumer and enterprise technology is helping to reduce complexities around training and adoption for new programmes and initiatives. As these technologies are being designed with an emphasis on ‘user experience’ (UX) first, this has empowered workers to embrace smarter technology and thus drive a more productive workforce.

What are your thoughts on the need for businesses to maintain a competitive advantage through addressing productivity?

As part of its Digital Divide paper, Unisys surveyed workers across several countries and business sectors, and we see a marked increase in personnel turnover and frustration for those workforces that are prevented from accessing the most modern and innovative technology. We classified the respondents as working for Leader or Laggard organisations.

Over a third of users bring their own equipment to work, simply as it works better and is more consistent and less than a quarter of people use the company provided work mobile phone, preferring to use their own personal handset instead.

We also saw 58% of people at laggard organisations feel negative towards their employer, 44% of which are frustrated with the technology provided and are thus six times more likely to want to leave the organisation. In comparison, 88% of people at leader organisations feel positive about the company, and 38% are proud of the company technology provided to them.

What future technology advancements are needed for businesses looking to improve employee engagement?

As technology is used primarily by people, it is vital to start solution design with the outcome for people as a base requirement. User experience is critical to all technical successes, and by engaging with power-users within the workforce community, genuine inputs and requirements can be gathered first-hand to be incorporated into the solution design. Attempting to retro-fit user features as an after-thought, will not deliver value for either the business, IT or users alike.

Technology must be intuitive and easy to adopt, any complexity in process or operations needs to be eliminated wherever possible. Simplifying processes and operations with automation and artificial intelligence (AI) solutions, such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), can help workers offload repetitive, time-consuming tasks to machines and instead focus on more rewarding, higher-value activities. This not only saves money but helps ensure employees are more engaged.

How can technology facilitate evolving working patterns (flexible working, etc.)?

Mobility is the obvious technical solution for flexible working (smartphones, tablets, laptops etc), but often the requirement needs wider consideration around security, data, network access and more. Moving towards a zero-trust environment and micro-segmentation will enhance the capability of selected or all users to enjoy the benefits of flexible working, as work becomes much less concerned about a place and more about a task or outcome.

How has smart working become more common in recent years across the private and public sectors? Can it play an important part in meeting the challenge of doing more with less?

Smart working is increasingly popular in the private sector, although seen less in the public sector. Security is often stated as the primary objection for the public sector, although technical solutions have been enabled to remove that objection as well but adoption remains low.

A well-connected workforce naturally does not have to wait two to four hours to be in a fixed location or challenged by delays in waiting for others, with full collaboration across departments, countries, continents and time-zones being instant and easy.

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