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"How does a Smart work environment contribute to employee happiness?"

Being content at work is increasingly determined by technology. Of course, the work you do and the colleagues you work with are also decisive factors in how happy you are in your work. But a new generation of professionals is coming into the workplace that needs to be taken into consideration, blogs sogetian Cheryl Van Heyningen.

These digital natives are everywhere and always connected to everyone and everything worldwide. And they expect nothing different at work. But while being ‘at work’ still means the traditional workplace for many of us, for digital natives it is no longer a place, but ‘what’ they do.

Digital natives want to work with their own computer, whether that’s a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. This new generation of professionals knows very well what does and doesn’t work. And expects to be given access to all the applications, business systems and personal data they need to do their work from any device.

It seems so obvious, but this scenario is still a step too far for many organizations. In fact, many IT leaders shudder at the idea of employees coming into work with their own device and then wanting access to all business applications. While this might be what it takes to keep the workforce of tomorrow happy, the average IT manager has to balance this with concerns about the safety, manageability and availability of the technology. After all, if personal or company data ends up on the street, the finger of blame will point directly at the IT department.

Preparing for the future with a smart work environment

In short, in a world in which flexible (mobile) working is becoming the norm, organizing it in such a way that it remains safe, smart and manageable remains a big challenge. In addition, the mobile work environment must also adapt and respond to new ways in which people work together, such as via Skype for BusinessGroups or Teams. That’s what’s being demanded today, but who knows how quickly these workplace collaboration tools will be out of date tomorrow.

Taking a modular approach to workplace change

So, what is the answer? My advice is to build a smart work environment in a modular way. This will enable you to constantly add new functions and dispose of outdated ones as and when necessary. 

A smart work environment is based on three basic functions: information, communication, and collaboration. It is important to organize these functions from the perspective of the user. Put the user, not the technology, at the center of your decision making. How does your employee want to be informed? What are the most popular and effective ways of communicating? How do your colleagues want to work together successfully? And which tools do they need for this?

Employees should not have to search endlessly for information. They must have direct access to the most important documents, tasks, and agreements. And preferably, the environment in which this information is made available should be fully personalized with simple, intuitive navigation through the maze of data and systems. This is what today’s employee already does in the Facebook environment. So, that’s what is expected in the workplace. Digital natives know no other way.

My advice is to build a smart work environment in a modular way. This will enable you to constantly add new functions and dispose of outdated ones as and when necessary.

Modular construction, one password, and a personalized platform

Of course, the smart work environment I am describing requires more than just a modular structure. It also demands that all business applications and information are available from a single, portal from any device. This means users no longer need different log-in codes or passwords. Yet, I still hear too many friends and family members complaining about the battery of passwords they have to remember, or that they have written somewhere on a notepad. These are friends who work at leading banks, insurers and healthcare institutions.

One friend who works in the healthcare sector has had to get used to using a different password for every digital form she is required to complete. So, another important condition for a smart work environment is that you make friends with Single Sign-On. This will prevent a great deal of frustration. Or, in other words, it increases the likelihood of employee happiness!

Manageable, safe and affordable

In reality, what an employee wants from a mobile, flexible workplace won’t be much different to what the IT department wants. But, again, the employee's perspective remains the guiding principle. At the same time, I can’t help but reiterate that everything must remain safe and manageable. Manageability also means keeping it affordable. IT managers should consider setting up the work environment in such a way that they fully understand how the environment is used. With this knowledge, a pay-per-use cloud-based model will become an interesting consideration.

In a subscription form, the IT department only pays for the actual use of all hardware and software set up in the smart modular working environment. This also helps the IT department to provide insight into which systems are popular and which ones are not. And it becomes much easier to allocate costs to certain departments, or to other groups of users. In this cloud environment, you can also easily scale up and down in capacity. So, if there are a few hundred employees turning up in the morning needing access to systems, that’s no problem because this can be quickly arranged in a subscription model.

Manageability also means keeping it affordable.

Another way to keep everything affordable is to set up a self-service portal. An employee should not have to call the IT service desk to change a password because they’ve forgotten it. This simply takes up a lot of time that IT professionals can put to good use elsewhere. And, as I said earlier, the employee of tomorrow is perfectly comfortable in the digital world. He often knows better than his IT colleagues what is technically possible and what is not.

A big contribution to employee happiness

So, make sure that employees are self-supporting as much as possible via a self-service portal. As well as using it to seek help, they can go via this portal to request new functionalities or hardware. 

Finally, whether you are a marketing manager, HR professional or IT specialist, the development of a smart work environment will make a major contribution to employee happiness across your organization! Deploying the right technology can make a big difference, but it is never a goal in itself. Instead, always approach your smart work environment from the user perspective.

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