By Kevin Peesker, General Manager — UK and Ireland Dell Consumer and Small, Medium Business

Not long ago the workforce was predictable and easy to define with most employees working routine office hours and using a fixed desktop office computer. Today working practices are highly variable: we respond to emails at all hours from smartphones, work from a variety of places and collaborate and exchange ideas via different platforms including social media. What’s more, many small businesses are starting as home-based or part-time ventures and we’re seeing greater flexible working patterns and expectations of always on connectivity inside and outside work.

But how do these new, technology-driven means of working affect companies and employees? Dell and Intel recently published the first instalment of a new TNS Global research project — ‘The Evolving Workplace’ — which aims to gain valuable insight into where and how the workplace is evolving. 21 industry experts including 11 UK representatives from the likes of Advanced Workplace Associates, the BBC and Orange Business Service offered perspective on the opportunities and demands associated with these trends:

1) Expect a tougher work-life balance

With flexible working patterns on the rise, and greater connectivity, it will be harder to distinguish between, and measure, company time versus non-company time

2) Increasing device choices

For the mobile worker in particular, resting alongside a laptop will likely be a smartphone and more and more often a tablet. While the number of devices is increasing, the need for compatibility and interoperability becomes more important — all of which is underpinned by the move to ‘the cloud’

3) Changes in adoption of devices

The number and types of devices and operating systems are both proliferating and converging. As cloud computing takes hold, the range of applications and functionalities will continue to rise. Compatibility could be less of an issue as the next generation of hardware and software should offer this as inherent capability. Tools traditionally confined to large firms are and will increasingly be more widely available to small businesses because of consumer-driven demand

4) Closer employee monitoring

In the workplace of the future, the availability of pervasive technology will make it easier for companies to monitor what employees are doing. Potentially more data will exist on what employees are doing at any given time and employers may take more interest in analysing this information. As such, employer-employee trust will be one of the most valuable resources that positive workforces can cultivate

5) Employee-led IT innovation

One-size-fits-all solutions implemented from the top-down are likely to be phased out in favour of systems designed by employees to suit their own needs. Interoperability and ease-of-use will be crucial for the increasingly decentralised organisation, and employees are more likely to turn to software solutions that are easily available and often freely available. Employees increasingly expect to be able to pick and choose the software and devices they want to use.

Work attitudes and work practices are evolving rapidly, fuelled by advances in technology and widespread broadband connectivity which is enabling the free-flow of information, ideas and other knowledge resources. Our world of work is being redefined and, with it, the traditional expectations of workers, managers and businesses of all sizes are being challenged. While some companies have been quick to embrace the benefits afforded by technology, we’re sure to see a significant gap between those who welcome change, and those who do not.

Dell and Intel will shortly be unveiling the findings of a global survey of workers across multiple industries which will delve deeper into where the change is happening and how, along with the opportunities, risks, and the impact it will all have on a variety of business types.