AI and Digital Workspaces to Empower Remote Workers in a Post-Covid Era

by Vic Herring, Vice President, Head of Global Software Center, Americas, Fujitsu

There’s enough evidence out there to suggest that work from home is here to stay. Collaboration tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams witnessed an explosion of downloads and several people are likely to remain hooked. A Gartner survey revealed that 74% of CFOs intend to shift at least 5% of their employees permanently to remote work. Even worker preferences appear to be changing. In a Gallup poll, 59% of US workers who moved to remote work on account of the pandemic indicated they would like to continue working from home even after the Covid-19 crisis ends.

In an increasingly no-touch world, it is very likely that this ‘genie’ is not going back into its bottle any time soon. Yet home workspaces also come with their own set of challenges.

Challenge: Collaboration

Humans are social animals not used to being isolated, even when working remotely. There’s empirical evidence to suggest that workers who collaborate are better at innovating and problem solving than those who operate in a silo. Technology and infrastructure plays a vital role in enabling remote workers to collaborate. While some companies scrambled to find solutions in times of the pandemic, others realized that the technology they set in place was somewhat bolted-on, not really designed to scale up to manage a larger pool of remote workers.

Challenge: Employee experience

When you’re juggling between home and work, you’re expected to multitask at a much greater level. Imagine logging into multiple applications for work – some which are designed for a mobile experience and others are not. Not to mention many of them don’t talk to each other, have poor sign-in experience and don’t deliver information that is relevant to you to get your job done quickly. All these can take a toll on your work experience.  Personalization also has a vital role in the employee experience. Today’s workforce expects the ability to personalize their workspace. According to a research by KPMG, companies that invest in employee experience are four times more profitable than the ones that do not. The report stresses that organizations must deliver a new kind of employee experience, “one that feels personal, relevant and responsive to individual needs”.

Empowering an increasingly remote and mobile workforce

There are many challenges mobilizing a remote and mobile workforce. How do you maintain individual productivity? How do you maintain close communications between remote individuals and the office while keeping secure at the same time? How do you improve employee experience for workers who are missing their office spaces? New tools are on the horizon that aim to change just that.

Digital workspaces to enhance employee experiences

As we begin to imagine the workplaces of the future, Covid-19 could very well be a tipping point for a digital transformation in the workplace. ‘Work’ may no longer be a ‘place’ — it could potentially be a curated list of tasks or activities that could be performed from any location and any device over the internet. It could also mean that workers get a unified, seamless, connected, “one” experience that allows users to switch devices or connect to tier-1 platforms like  ServiceNow, Oracle, SAP or Salesforce, and continue to be productive and work in a familiar way.

Companies like Citrix who are at the forefront of digital transformation are encouraging businesses to look at digital workplace strategy holistically by looking at ways people work, the tools they might need, the skills they may need to develop, and the impact they wish to have on the company culture. While the ultimate goal is to improve customer experience, organizations must first improve overall employee experience — and this is where digital workspaces come in. 

Workspace intelligence to boost employee productivity

An intelligent workspace can connect all your business systems, applications and IoT edge

systems to a remote worker. Imagine this – what if you could “snack” on a piece of information instead of having to go in on the whole meal of information that’s available? What if you don’t have to go and authenticate into an application and then maybe go to a different area to find a supporting piece of information? What if machine learning (ML) could help automate mundane tasks and artificial intelligence (AI) could provide insight into data from micro applications? What if you could make faster business decisions and also have a simpler, personalized, consistent experience across your devices? Or if a virtual assistant could track your meeting agendas or list all your sales opportunities in an instant?

Major companies are now looking at workplace intelligence as a means to work process transformation. It could be as simple as providing your frontline employees with the ability to track real-time inventory levels or use AI to predict incoming supplies so that they are able to better serve customer demand. Or helping a fast food chain with 3000 outlets and disconnected inventory management systems to create a homogenized inventory system that can help predict sales volumes, track supply and demand metrics or trade supplies if needed (one may have too many cookies, another may have too many buns).

Connected and secure workspaces to boost collaboration

Future workspaces will easily connect with collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams, Slack, Zoom et. al., and provide a single dashboard for remote workers to collaborate with geographically distributed teams. Not only does this approach unify multi-vendor experiences, but also the approach is secure by design and also significantly boosts productivity. Workers also benefit from integrated search capabilities that help access information they need faster.

Gartner predicts that 30% of organizations will gain competitive advantage from the workforce’s capability to exploit emerging technologies. In a post-Covid era, it is not far to imagine that digital workspaces will help build digital dexterity, improve productivity, boost employee experience and develop ‘esprit de corps’ among remote workers that struggle between home and work.