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Public sector workplaces to change drastically over the next two decades

New research commissioned by Ricoh Europe reveals that Europe’s public sector employees expect their future workplace to be dominated by highly sophisticated technologies that will drastically change the way they work within the next 20 years, writes David Mills.

The study highlighted some interesting predictions from the employees surveyed, with the majority anticipating the arrival of a tech evolved workplace which will make use of technologies such as augmented reality, desk-based robots and drones.

In practice such tech evolved technologies could, for example, allow key data around core citizen services, internal initiatives, as well as local, national and EU-wide regulations to be transferred quickly to the public sector employee in advance of an important meeting.

The advantages of a tech evolved workplace, as cited by employees, signify a culture where information and communication can be better streamlined. Such a culture is likely to include more ‘intelligent workers’ (iWorkers) across all sectors. These are reliable, highly skilled employees who perform with speed and accuracy. They also have access to all the necessary information to meet the needs of their business and clients – by optimising the way they use technology and eliminating information silos.

But most public sector respondents believe that establishing a tech evolved workplace will give everyone better access to the information they need to do their jobs and help them to complete tasks faster, whilst helping to improve employee collaboration. With both time and energy saved through the adoption of advanced technology and regularly reviewed core processes that underpin its use, organisations can realign resources and personnel to deliver improved citizen services. Yet, public sector leaders face a series of considerations.

From the evolving economic climate through to the pressure to streamline business processes, leaders of government departments are still being tasked to ‘do more with less’. Aside from cost and security, their own government regulations are seen to be the biggest hindrance on the sector’s ability to embrace new technologies. More than a quarter of those surveyed also cited the additional roadblocks to adopting new technology, including employee resistance, a reluctance to adopt new ways of working/internal processes and an inability to connect with legacy technology.

The future public sector workplace will undoubtedly be different compared to today, as new ways of communicating and receiving information rise to the fore. A future where augmented reality could enable staff to ‘step in’ and interact with building proposals and envisaged infrastructures is on its way. But as employees have revealed, there are still several key steps that need to be taken before they can benefit from future innovations.

This is also true for current technologies because a number of public sector organisations are struggling to use workplace technologies associated with enterprise to their full advantage. There are several steps that should be taken now to ensure public sector departments address the ‘more with less challenge’ as effectively as possible.

These include better digitisation of business critical processes, and reviewing ways that employees are accessing information. For example, almost a third of government employees are still not using internal collaboration platforms, while follow-me printing and web-based meetings are also being underused as part of the day-to-day working routines.

Additional guidance is set out in the European Commission’s push to increase digital interactions and move towards a more tech evolved workplace. The public sector’s drive to adopt a technological approach to streamlining operations is supported by the Commission’s target to increase use of eGovenment services by 50 percent amongst citizens and 80 percent amongst businesses by 2015.

In addition to accelerating the digitisation of the public sector, national and EU directives can be leveraged to help establish more responsive public services into the future. Such an environment that’s always-on, collaborative and interactive can only help to increase productivity and effective communication with citizens.

It’s exciting to think that new technology could help alleviate the pressure on public sector organisations trying to increase efficiencies and boost citizen-facing services. The year 2034 could well mark the point where the public sector tech evolved workplace is fully realised – and there’s never been a better time to begin the journey.

 David Mills is CEO of Ricoh Europe

For more insights into the impacts of technology-led change visit  www.ricoh-europe.com/thoughtleadership.

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