Before the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in early 2020, the idea of working and socialising from home was mainly a theoretical proposition. But less than a year later, that reality is suddenly the new normal for many of the world’s office workers.
In the latest Ericsson IndustryLab study, “The Dematerialized Office”, early adopter white-collar employees in 16 countries, representing the views of around 133 million employees, were interviewed to gather their expectations about the future workplace.
This report is a follow-up to last year’s “Internet of senses” study, that explored the shift from a screen-based internet connectivity to an immersive experience resulting from our senses being connected in everyday life. In this latest report, the internet of senses is brought into the office in order to see how sensory connectivity through Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR), 5G and automation can change the work situation for white-collar employees.
“During this COVID-19 isolation people everywhere are rediscovering the importance of the smells and the flavors and the sheer physicality of the locations they normally frequent and do business in. In fact, the pandemic has created a tipping point for what white collar workers expect of the future digital office,” says Dr. Michael Björn, Head of Research Agenda, Ericsson Consumer & IndustryLab, and author of the report. “Office work will not go back to the way it was before the pandemic. Instead, employees will spend more time working digitally and, for this reason, drive the need for future technologies on a scale and at a pace that was unimaginable only a year ago.”
Dr Björn continues to explain that for digital collaborations to be as interactive as the real thing, communications technology will need to take a giant leap forward. This is about more than just better video meetings. It is also about collaborating digitally in the same room with colleagues – which is why interest in AR/VR technology has grown rapidly over the last six months.
Other highlights from the report include:
- Nearly 6 in 10 foresee a permanent increase in online meetings and need tools that better support remote interaction.
- Half of respondents want a digital workstation allowing full-sense presence at work from anywhere.
- 77 percent indicate that an internet of senses for business use would make their company more sustainable.
- The internet of senses will most likely be used for marketing and sales, with 59 percent saying that spatial video and 50 percent saying digital temperature will be used to have more immersive engagements with customers by 2030.
- 73 percent of senior managers believe that food in the company canteen can be digitally enhanced to taste like anything by 2030
- While 66 percent think that by 2030, technology will enable them to sense when a colleague is upset, that also means their employer will know when they themselves are upset