The last 18 months have been all about adapting, pivoting, and reinventing in a new way of living, particularly when it comes to business.
So what does the future spectrum hold?
ServiceNow has partnered with Australia’s leading demographer and business analyst, Bernard Salt AM, to explore the history of Australian ways of working and share predictions on how life and work may evolve over the next decade.
Three key themes emerged which he predicts will determine business success in the future:
- Hybrid working is here to stay, at scale:
Businesses will need to adapt to widespread and long-term ‘working-from-anywhere’ (WFA) and ‘working-from-home' (WFH).
Leaders will invest in hybrid wellbeing policies and technologies that connect teams and across Early adopters will unlock access to top talent and reducing exposure to skills shortages.
- A ‘trust reset’:
The pandemic has reshaped attitudes to authorities and within communities, but technology will help build trust through transparency and traceability.
Citizen expectations to be connected and protected through government and business services will rise, with greater demand for real-time access to information an
- The ‘pursuit of seamlessness, in everything’:
Tech will minimise the mundane and maximise the use of time at work and home, as admin is outsourced to digital tools. The digital delegation will take off at work, and business will benefit as employees reduce admin to focus on
These trends emerged as Bernard and The Demographics Group analysed how work and life evolved in Australia over the past 100 years, and what the future holds, to mark the 100-year anniversary of the first use of the term ‘workflow’.
A workflow is a sequence of tasks that is combined to reach an outcome more efficiently.
Bernard Salt says:
“Whatever side of the fence you sit on, hybrid work is here to stay: Australians simply will not let it go.
Australians have long had a penchant for lifestyle and the big shift to hybrid working meant we adapted in order to have greater control over work hours, patterns and environments.”
The pandemic brought with it arguably one of the biggest social and cultural disruptions since WWII with millions of Aussies working-from-home across the various lockdowns.
Collaboration tools supported this sudden change to remote workforces and facilitated necessary changes to how work flowed between teams and across organisations.
Bernard believes these changes to the way we work are so critical that in the next decade social protocols may emerge to control the working environment.
“It will become socially unacceptable to send emails after business hours.
There is a danger in working from home that workers may see themselves as being ‘on call’ 24/7.
We need to protect against that either by agreement or by regulation.”
Australians can also expect to see traditional hierarchical work culture and structure reimagined in favour of flatter and more transparent systems.
Changes in infrastructure and land use can also be expected as stronger suburban hubs evolve to service work-from-home workers.
Work tasks will divide into concentration tasks done at home, and training, deal-doing, and collaborating tasks done in the CBD.
Eric Swift, Vice President, and Managing Director ANZ at ServiceNow explains:
“Working-from-home revealed how much time employees spend on repetitive mundane tasks and processes, as employees were deprived of workplace interaction to break up the day.
This exposed the reality that for many, too much valuable time is spent emailing, reviewing, logging and approving requests.”
Australian businesses have a stark choice.
Embrace the workflow revolution to unlock talent and skills in their business, and attract new talent, or in this hyper-competitive market, they risk losing out.
Digital workflows automate repetitive tasks, so employees can spend more time on creative and fulfilling work, like strengthening relationships and solving problems.
This elevates the employee experience, while increasing productivity and profitability.”
In the last decade, we’ve seen a rise in distrust in Australia.
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Various royal commissions and evidence of corporate misconduct led to a loss of trust in businesses, governments, and key institutions.
More recently, however, as The Demographic Group’s analysis found, the pandemic seems to be rebuilding trust.
Australians are now accepting of a range of digital processes to rebuild trust through transparency and traceability.
Bernard anticipates that in the next decade, we will see authentication services becoming the norm.
QR codes will be used to show the provenance of restaurant or supermarket food or the ethical supply chain of fashion goods.
Moving across both work and everyday life, we will see an increase in digital authentication protocols.
Eric Swift adds:
“Trust depends on creating connections at the right time.
Automating and digitising repetitive tasks, like simple customer service queries, enables employees to focus on building trusted relationships with customers when it matters.”
As the adoption of “frictionless” services like ride-share apps and self-checkouts has increased, Australia’s insatiable hunger for lifestyle has further accelerated the shift to outsource everyday life activities and mundane tasks to technology.
Bernard says retail and customer service will be transformed by digital workflows, creating more opportunities for consumers to receive (if they so wish) hyper-personalised and immersive shopping experiences.
Instant home shopping is set to become the norm for items deemed every day as opposed to experiential.
“There is a deep-seated yearning by humanity to be ever more productive, to free up time for other purposes deemed far more important. Process-driven tasks will increasingly be outsourced to a digital world that tracks, traces and then delivers a seamless and predictable outcome.
Digitising and automating tasks – creating digital workflows – will underpin much of the next decade’s transformation.”
“Customers expect intuitive experiences that are personalised to their needs.
The moment of truth, however, is when something goes wrong or when customers have a unique need. When workflows, the right teams and services meet the precise needs of customers at the time they need it.”
ServiceNow commissioned The Demographics Group and Bernard Salt to analyse the history of work in Australia, marking ‘100 Years of Workflow’, and to forecast the next great shifts in how Australians work and live.
Bernard Salt explains that it was back in 1921 when the first documented use of the term ‘workflow’ occurred (Lawrence Saunders; S. R. Blundstone (1921). The Railway Engineer).
“Recorded in an engineering journal in the United States, the workflow was a term used to describe a procedure or task that achieved a known outcome,” he says.
“While workflows have changed over time, they’ve always been integral in how we get the job done.”
Eric Swift concludes:
“Roll on to 2021 and technology-driven digital workflows underpin every leading organisation.
The companies that succeeded during the pandemic were those that had digital workflows in place to keep work, processes and projects moving even in the face of challenges from distributed teams and operational disruptions.”