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The Inevitable Evolution of the Workplace

By Chua I-Pin, Managing Director, South East Asia, Polycom

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Chua I-Pin, Managing Director, South East Asia, Polycom

Flexible and remote working is on the rise especially with advancements in technology; the concept of working anywhere and collaboration without boundaries is taking off around the world. The rapid innovation of high-speed broadband networks and video-enabled devices is paving the way for better access and connectivity with real-time, face-to-face interaction. This is changing the way people behave and operate and how people consume information, make decisions and interact with others. 

According to recent studies, 62% of employees collaborate with people in different time zones and geographies. This also brings into focus the issue of office real estate, where large underutilised office spaces and traditional desk configurations are no longer effective. Inefficiencies, both in terms of operating costs and diminishing productivity, especially in the age of the mobile workforce and ‘anywhere collaboration’, has led to the decline of workers occupying the physical workspace. Furthermore, employees who continue to use the office find themselves in need of more collaborative tools to connect with distributed and remote colleagues.

"The flexibility and choice afforded by modern technology is making business leaders question the effectiveness of the workplace in its current traditional form."

The flexibility and choice afforded by modern technology is making business leaders question the effectiveness of the workplace in its current traditional form. In an increasingly unpredictable economic environment, businesses are being forced to look at creative solutions to foster collaboration and productive output. Collaborative workspaces that thoughtfully integrate technology and space are replacing underutilised work desks. Adjustments to deliver the best experiences for physical and remote workers are being made in some environments to great effect.

Enabling technologies, including mobile devices, tablets, IP telephony and video collaboration, are changing the way people work. Whether it’s checking emails on the commute to work, joining a conference call while driving, or meeting over video collaboration from home, the need to be physically connected in an office and to be considered a productive employee is significantly limited.

The workplace of the future is not a physical location, and by this principle there should be a productivity-driven approach to work rather than just being measured by the number of hours spent in an office. Essentially, it means a more productive, collaborative future. Collaboration is crucial for countries like Singapore, where land is scarce, real estate is expensive, and the talent market is tight. To be able to attract, recruit and retain quality talent, implementing concepts like flexi-working arrangements, retaining and empowering working mums and senior workers is rapidly becoming an imperative for Singapore enterprises.

Many of our enterprises, especially the Small and Medium enterprises (SMEs), typically conduct business in South East Asia (SEA)where communications is equally non-verbal and is reliant on visual cues – “What is not spoken is as important as what is spoken.”

Therefore, conducting face-to-face meetings is an important aspect of doing business in the region. However, this is not always possible due to time or distance constraints. A voice conversation may not communicate the full value of the message, whereas video conferences ensure that visual cues are communicated and often seen as the best alternative to physically being there in. The right solutions can overcome the logistical challenges of flexible and remote working that enable employees to collaborate naturally from anywhere, whilst allowing businesses to reap the rewards of innovative ways of working.

Businesses are aware of the tangible benefits of flexible working, including cost reductions, improved productivity, faster decision making and better efficiency. This means traditional office spaces shifting towards collaboration spaces and technology have become more intuitive and integrated into daily activities and workflow. It is no longer a physical place you go to, to do work. It is about enabling our workforce to be productive and efficient, wherever they may be. It’s about empowering distributed teams to work together as if they were in the same room.

Having clocked air miles working across Southeast Asia for the last 15 years, I have found that video collaboration technology has significantly improved my productivity and decision making processes. My office has become where and when I can get access to mission critical information and data sources. It can be anywhere as a result of the collaboration technology deployed on my mobile devices and personal computer. I meet with my regional teams on a daily basis and get to connect with everyone on a personal level when we discuss business outcomes and revenue projections.

Collaboration with anyone, anywhere in real time, is now possible. You do not need to be physically present in an office to get the job done. This increases the speed at which we do things and is the very essence of Polycom’s definition of workplace of the future. What inspires me most is that our technology applies far beyond meeting rooms. We have come so far in applying collaboration technology in the most innovative ways to enable transformations in workspace, experience and workflow in multiple verticals.

Video collaboration is beyond merely enabling people to meet face-to-face. The technology has evolved to transform processes and solve business issues for maximum productivity. I’ve also learned that true market leaders are dedicated to continuous innovation. As a company with 25 years of innovation behind us, Polycom’s focus and technology has always been on ease of use and seamless integration, and I am excited about what’s coming next.

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