Once upon a time, to communicate with your co-workers, you would have to meet them in the break room, catch them after hours or maybe just give them a call.
Then this little thing called the internet emerged and changed everything. Internet then lead to email which quickly became the go-to means of communication amongst workers.
But email was so 2013. I say 2013 because that’s when a company known as Slack entered the scene and quickly become the fastest growing company to ever hit $1B in revenue.
The view of companies like Slack is that they will quickly replace email which studies have shown that’s already the case. They make for a more efficient, transparent and productive way for teams to collaborate and it’s likely there’s no going backwards.
If just in the past 20 years, we’ve gone from in person, to email, to slack, what’s the next 20 years going to look like? How will teams of the future collaborate and work together?
To get an idea of where things are headed, we spoke with industry experts and asked the question:
What’s the future of workplace communication?
This is what we learned…
Bryan Koontz, CEO & Founder of Guidefitter
“As a small business owner, and founder of several other companies I have witnessed workplace communication evolve over the past few decades. The future of communication is headed to an always-on mindset that stems from a reliance on multiple devices for work. Over 85% of employees use more than one device to communicate for work, whether a cell phone, laptop, tablet, or other. This will create an expectation and demand for instant communication at all hours. Also less face-to-face meetings will occur as more and more adopt the convenience of technology i.e. video-conferencing between remotely based employees. Technology has made communicating easier than ever before and employees have parlayed this into workplace freedom, working from remote locations without sacrificing collaboration.”
Jennifer Walsh, Manager Strategic Sourcing at BNSF Railway & Owner of Humble SuperHero
“The future of workplace communication is that 90% of our meetings will be held on Skype to solve issues. We will use paper less and less while notes and action items are all delivered electronically. Most of our daily tasks will be managed from automatic exception reporting where we focus on things that are outliers and not working. Companies will continue to train on soft skills and communication as we will be working with a more diverse workforce and will need to listen better, be more patient to communication barriers and evolve to that next level.”
Andrew Cohan, MAI, Managing Director at Horwath HTL Miami
“As bandwidth and communications services continue to grow in capacity and shrink in price, larger numbers of people will work remotely, either leaving urban areas for more affordable rural areas or choosing to settle near recreation meccas in beach and mountain towns. Many choosing urban life will live within walking distance of transportation hubs whether in city centers or suburban mixed-use hubs, though commuting to an office building will be less common.
This trend will promote ‘the pursuit of happiness’ but the resulting isolation will adversely impact the synergies that materialize when people work together in one place week after week. Video calls will suffice for status updates, but the need for periodic face to face team building will grow. Work teams that currently meet annually to set objectives or celebrate success, will more often need to meet quarterly to establish the sense of community and belonging that contribute to creating high performing teams and foster leadership development.”
Rafael Romis, CEO of Weberous
“This might be a little more than 10 or 15 years, but as virtual reality takes hold, we will see it being used in an office environment to bring remote teams together in a virtual environment. Each team member will be able to join a meeting by using a virtual reality headset and being represented by an avatar. This will open the possibility of eschewing meetings in boring boardrooms and instead choosing a different setting to hold a virtual meeting. As VR matures, avatars will get more realistic. Eventually, they’ll get to the point where they’re almost indistinguishable from real people, but that’s probably way into the future.”
John Kinskey, President & Founder of AccessDirect, Inc.
“Workplace communication will be completely untethered and consolidated on a single device whether voice, text, chat or other. Voice signatures will provide security and voice commands will drive most activity with unobtrusive personal audio devices that create sound indiscernible from face to face conversation. Machine learning will help organize and predict a user’s daily activities with reminders and preformatted suggested communications tailored to the user’s previous schedule, interactions and style–think Amazon’s Echo on steroids. The need for travel will be reduced with virtual meetings that allow face to face or full room interaction and information sharing seamlessly and more conveniently than sitting in the same room. Virtual reality headsets for product presentations and demonstrations will become common. The mobile device will be dockable at a workstation and will be an on-net company extension with no additional mobile phone carrier charges and enabled with all the features of today’s on premise phone systems such as extension dialing to other departments or staff members, call transfer, conferencing, music on hold, etc.”
Guillaume Le Mener, Head of Marketing & Corporate Development for Mavenir
“It’s been years since text messaging was simple, with seamless sending/receiving capabilities from one person to another. We now rely on group messaging, video calls and third-party messaging applications. Until Rich Communications Services (RCS) entered the picture, that is. With RCS, texting apps that come with every phone are just as powerful as other messaging apps like iMessage, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. Add RCS standards to the mix and the industry can ensure that the best messaging features become available, no matter what carrier service or what mobile device is used.
The same power of RCS can be harnessed for workplace communication. Taking advantage of RCS alongside the growing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement means that personal phones can be another form of workplace communication. RCS enables our phone to become another method for intuitive and productive communication, with voice, video and messaging capabilities in one manageable place.”
“I believe the future of workplace communication will continue the trend of the last 20 years in terms of less time spent on irrelevant information. In the past, a lot of communication and information went to everyone, even when they didn’t need it or it wasn’t relevant to them, which was inefficient. That strategy evolved into emails, then Yammer, Salesforce Chatter etc, and finally Slack, which allows people to clearly filter the information they need.
However the most important information moves around through conversations and meetings. Since those meetings don’t have to be face to face anymore, the future will likely involve many more people working together who are not in the same place but who are distributed across the world. Our company has been able to have employees distributed worldwide in a way that I never would have thought was possible 10 years ago.”
Aaron Watts, Digital Marketing Executive at DuoCall
“In today’s society we want everything to be effortless, and this is true of our communications. We’ve already moved a long way from our previous ‘old school’ methods, but some of our communication methods are still inefficient, outdated and compromised on productivity.
As we progress, processes such as email are likely to be replaced with something quicker and more effective such as IM (Instant Messaging). Although this technology is, and has been available for some time now we don’t implement it correctly within our businesses.
Another key factor in the way business communication will go in the future is the increase in remote working. With so many people now not actually working from the office our processes have to become slicker and more flexible.
Going forwards we’ll see new integrated platforms that provide flexible communication channels, including video calls, text messaging, and instant messaging.”
Walt L. Jones III , Founder & Principal of SEQ Advisory Group
“Workplace communication has been greatly impacted by the changes in social communication as well as generational changes. Where text messaging has replaced phone calls, instant messaging apps have become a norm in the workplace. Companies now have team communication and social media platforms for work collaboration. In the modern business world, our keyboards are our lips and our hands are our voices. The benefit is that as communication evolves, it allows companies to extend their global footprint in terms of workforce and customers, while reducing operations costs (office space, telecom, etc.). The future of workplace communication will continue on a path of mimicking the in-person connection via the 5 senses as close as possible without actual physical contact. Sight and sound has been achieved, while scent and taste studies are underway.”
Karen Gordon is the CEO of 5 Dynamics
“In 10-15 years, workplace communication will be focused on individual empowerment, especially in the employee and employer feedback loop. Technology will disrupt traditional human resources methods, and HR leaders will provide automated tools that make it possible for managers to tailor communications and feedback to the unique needs and work styles of individual employees. HR will no longer be a middle man need. The traditional annual review will have finally disappeared, replaced by continuous feedback loops so that information is traveling up, across and down in real time so leaders can act on information quickly. CEOs, who realize today that human capital is a significant opex and that preservation of company culture is vital, will have invested in tools and programs that facilitate one-on-one relationships among team members. We’ve found more democratized, one-to-one communication styles appeal to many millennials—who in less than 10 years will be 75% of the workforce.”