It’s safe to say that the way we work has advanced so rapidly in the last two decades, it is barely recognisable from what we had before. The last time we saw a change this big was during the industrial revolution, and the advancements back then were so seismic that they are still being felt today.
Modern businesses have often struggled to keep up with the pace of change, but the ones that have positioned themselves at the forefront of this change have reaped the rewards. Big tech firms have grown into global behemoths as they have found that people’s desire for cutting edge products and services is insatiable.
The internet has been the major facilitator of all this change, bringing people together and allowing the sharing of information like never before. Distance has no longer become the barrier it once was as people are able to communicate across thousands of miles at the touch of a button.
With things looking like they won’t be slowing down anytime soon, here are just a few of the ways that technology has changed (and is continuing to change) the modern working environment.
A Mobile Office
Once upon a time (not all that long ago actually), people only worked from a single location. There may be various offices dotted around, but on the whole, people were in the same building. The increasing spread of Wi-Fi and mobile coverage means that people are able to work from pretty much any location in the world. Obviously, this doesn’t go for all industries, but a huge proportion of jobs can now be done on the go. Developments in conferencing facilities means that people are able to host meetings ‘face to face’ with others who are on the other side of the world.
Consumers are now buying on the go too. The mobile phone has become the most commonly used device to access the internet. People are able to do everything from their weekly grocery shopping to booking their next holiday when they are out and about. Businesses have had to be quick to improve their offering, creating mobile responsive websites and customised apps in order to capitalise on this new opportunity.
A Workforce of Robots
Within the next two decades, it has been estimated that nearly half of all jobs in the US will be susceptible to automation. This is one of the biggest challenges that faces Governments all around the world. The question of what people will do when this happens is something that will need serious thought sooner rather than later.
In the meantime, businesses of all kind are capitalising on the growing trend for automation to improve their bottom lines. They now have access to a workforce that doesn’t require payment, can work around the clock and is not prone to human error. The Industrial Internet of Things bases its theories around the fact that smart machines are superior at capturing and communicating data, helping companies pick up on inefficiencies, therefore saving time and money.
At the moment, low skilled jobs are under the most threat, but as technology advances, who knows the direction it will take us?
The End of the 9 to 5
Many businesses still rely on a stringent 9 to 5 policy, but over time, more and more are seeing the advantages of flexible working. Instead of paying for desk space, workers who are mainly computer based can complete their daily tasks wherever they choose. In theory, this should benefit people on both the employer and employee side, but there is still a long way to go before these changes are fully embraced.
However, it’s clear that the shift is coming as more people than ever class themselves as self-employed. Many of these are freelancers who work their own flexible hours. An increasing number of people are so-called ‘digital nomads’ who work from their laptops from all over the world. Like we saw at the beginning of the article, distance is no longer the factor it used to be.
The Sharing Economy
Many people are looking for new ways that they can make money over and above their traditional forms of income. This is where the sharing economy has grown. Probably the pioneer of this trend was eBay, which was founded way back in 1995. Since then, platforms have sprung up all over the place allowing people to sell goods to each other, thus bypassing traditional retail stores.
But people are no longer just selling items. They are offering spare rooms, storage space, driveway space, lifts in their car and clothing rental, to name a few. Even time is now valuable, as people are able to hire others to do chores or run errands for them. While platforms which offer these services have expanded, companies which have traditionally provided these services have begun to suffer. Like every other aspect of the digital age, the sharing economy throws up challenges just like it does opportunities.
Extreme Customer Profiling
Companies are now able to gather information on customers like never before. It is now easier than ever to understand what consumers are after based on their spending habits and past purchases. Not only this, even having a Google account can give companies information like where you are from, what browser you are using, how long you spent on a particular website and when you decided to leave.
Businesses invest a great deal of time and money profiling their customers so they can work out how best they can encourage them to spend more money. All forms of marketing can be tailored to best suit the kind of person that has been profiled.
In an age of instant communication, businesses have to be more careful than ever how they are perceived by others. For example, a restaurant no longer has to just be worried about a visit from the local food critic. Now, they have to be concerned that every single person that passes through the door has a device in their pocket that allows them to vent their frustration to the world if they are not entirely satisfied! Businesses have has to raise their standards and manage their reputations like never before.
Online reputation also makes a huge difference. Potential customers will make a snap judgement about a business based on the strength of their website and social media accounts. A poor website is like having a poor shop window. People will pass by without a second glance.
Businesses now have whole teams of people focused on brand management, and a great deal of this activity takes place online. Growing social media departments manage business reputation and respond to consumers who are now more impatient than ever. Companies know that consumers have a shorter attention span and are likely to go elsewhere quickly if they feel like their voice is not being heard.
The Decline of the High Street
As mentioned before, shopping habits have changed to such an extent that many people no longer visit the traditional high street. Stores that have thrived tend to offer a combination of online sales and traditional retail, though competitors like Amazon that have based their entire sales facility online have benefited vastly. Traditional shops have had to adapt by focusing more on their customer service, making sure people have an experience that they cannot get online. Nevertheless, the march of online shopping shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.
Focus on Experiences
The generation that is currently driving change is the Millennials. The first to grow up in the digital age, they are driven by ‘experiences’, whether this is going on a trip, learning a new skill or even simply sitting down and having a meal. This collecting of experiences can be paralleled with the previous generation’s acquisition of material possessions. And even though Millennials don’t tend to have the same level of disposable income as the previous one, they are more than willing to spend what they do have on experiences. Companies that capitalise on this trend have found that they are able to do very well indeed.
Digital Marketing and Advertising
More than ever, companies are channeling their marketing and advertising spend online. As previously stated, customer profiling means that it is much easier to make sure the right people are being targeted. As well as this, digital methods can end up being much more cost effective and generally effective than their old fashioned counterparts. Businesses are finding that people are influenced by what they see online ahead of traditional television and print marketing techniques.
These are just a few of the ways that technology has influenced has significantly influenced business over the last few years in particular. Companies have found that they have had to evolve quicker than ever if they hope to survive the Darwinian modern business world in which it really is survival of the fittest.