Future of Hybrid Workplace Technologies

As companies evaluate employee experiences, productivity and retention, new digital collaboration technologies are poised to reshape the future of hybrid work.

By Scott Steinberg

By Scott Steinberg March 21, 2023

As organizations deeper into their digital transformation and beyond Industry 4.0, they see cloud-powered Web 3.0 solutions and Metaverse spaces that can better facilitate the needs of hybrid workers, who seek productivity and collaboration capabilities that seamlessly blend real-life with digital interactions. This may seem like far-fetched science fiction, but underlying data technologies have advanced rapidly in recent years, making it these seamless scenarios ready for reality. These technologies are certain to disrupt present work processes and the productivity tools employees have at their fingertips today. Those companies that embrace hybrid workplaces may lead the way.

“I’m interested in the metaverse as a CIO because this is the environment into which the workers who are coming into my company are used to, especially Gen Z,” former Nutanix CIO Wendy M. Pfieffer told CNBC

“This is how they show up as they interact with technology. They’re already comfortable across virtual environments and they know how to curate a mix of these tools and services and technologies in order to interact and work.”

Research firms such as Gartner and McKinsey report that the business world is facing a permanent age of hybrid and remote work, with employees only demanding a greater array of flexible work options going forward. This will force enterprise leaders to reimagine business and workforce strategies from top to bottom. No wonder the market for extended reality (XR) offerings are projected to be worth $13 trillion by 2030.  The Metaverse alone could generate up to $5 trillion in economic value by 2030, according to McKinsey, These are just a few of many future-of-work technologies being explored as companies map out their future.


Hybrid Work Unleashing Creativity and Collaboration

Many of these new collaboration tools will be powered by cloud computing, and most likely by hybrid cloud or hybrid multicloud IT systems. This is the modern foundational infrastructure allowing businesses to easily scale up and optimize resources needed for applications and data. 

Putting this in perspective, Author Mark P. Mills told The Forecast that cloud computing is ushering in the economic boom of the century, by enabling artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and data analytics that businesses now need to function and grow. 

“No infrastructure has ever been as big as the cloud,” Mills said.  

“We're 10 years into the biggest infrastructure ever built by humanity, and we're still building it out. Global spending on this build-out is greater than what the world's electric utilities spend on electricity production.”


Cloud Computing a Springboard to New Heights

Innovators are reconsidering how they can leverage virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and other spatial technologies to power new ways for employee communications, collaboration and engagement. They’re increasingly thinking through how they can more effectively leverage cutting-edge cloud computing solutions to power these next-generation tools.  

While aimed at creating better employee productivity and customer satisfaction, these changes will require significant business operation changes. They’re imagining how to combine these tools with 5G high-speed networks and scalable cloud computing capabilities to optimize everything for real-time interaction. That means applications and data will need to be located in the right places to deliver high-performance and reliability needs and meet regulatory requirements.

“We’re at a unique moment in time where a convergence of technology advancements, workplace evolutions, and macroeconomic factors are enabling enterprises to create truly transformational business change,” said Chris Zimmerman, senior analyst for market researcher FutureProof Strategies. 

“Firms in every field continue to reimagine their infrastructures, business models, and operating strategies to drive new methods of value creation,” he said. 

“One of the first places it naturally makes sense for many to start is rethinking their approach to talent management. That means reconsidering how to use cloud and XR technologies to ensure that employees can stay productive under any operating circumstances. It also means looking for opportunities to cost-effectively use VR/AR, Metaverse, and Web 3.0 solutions to bring workforces closer together and promote greater collaboration in shared online spaces.”


The Metaverse is Coming: Are IT Leaders Ready for It?

Thinking along three dimensions – contemplating new opportunities for employee engagement and experience, new ways of working, and new business models and revenue channels – can help drive game-changing innovation here, he suggested. 

In effect, tomorrow’s leading disruptors won’t just leverage the Metaverse and Web 3.0 solutions to more cost-effectively do business with and attract potential customers at every turn. They’ll also utilize these tools to heighten employee engagement and promote more intuitive and informed online interactions amongst enterprise teams, departments and the stakeholders with which they regularly interface.

Despite the dizzying array of new high-tech advancements, including artificial intelligence (AI), digital twins, and decentralized finance offerings, experts say business leaders will look beyond technological upgrades to find other important aspects that help people be their authentic selves and perform at their best using new tools. This holistic approach is essential for creating better employee experiences across the board.

“A surprisingly large number of organizations are making decisions today about the type of company that they want to be in three to five years,” noted Tim Rosato, president of trend forecasters The Silver Lion Group. 

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that business leaders don’t just need to be fluent in the use of cutting-edge technological advancements if they want to get ahead in the future,” he said. 

“They also need to understand how to leverage Web 3.0 software programs, decentralized solutions, and AR/VR tools to build better experiences for employees and partners as well. When we talk about the future, and new upgrades like the Metaverse, the focus is often on customer-facing solutions. But as we look to the future of business, it’s important to consider employee-facing solutions and how they can enhance your working processes and workforce management strategies as well.”

For some enterprises, that may mean having to think about how VR headsets or augmented reality glasses can help provide staffers with more hands-on and interactive training, or access to better communications or service and support capabilities in the field. 

For other firms, it could translate to looking for ways to hold more meetings and presentations in the Metaverse, with roughly 4 in 5 professionals open to using virtual worlds for get-togethers in lieu of videoconferencing. 

Still more may embrace Web3 solutions as a way to foster greater community, connection, and collaboration at work, and better connect with younger generations of workers. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) believes new technologies such as Web3 are here to stay. The group points out that, like social media solutions before them, all of these high-tech advancements are only expected to grow in presence and prevalence throughout the workplace in the years ahead. 


Shift to Hybrid Work: Asynchronous Productivity

Signs of change are already everywhere. Manufacturing firms, for example, are increasingly using 3D digital twins to design, simulate and optimize facility performance, as well as design and train staff in how to optimize surrounding workflows. Coupled with high-speed 5G communications capabilities, these immersive tools are already powering training for emergency responders and surgeons alike.

Fast Company reported that skills and leadership training is critical to sustainable businesses, as it increases employee learning, retention and career satisfaction. Writer Merilee A. Kern concluded that new digital collaboration tools are poised to supercharge corporate skills training efforts. 

As with the onset of any new technological revolution, many aspects and possibilities still need to be explored and understood before human resources (HR) teams can put these tools into practice effectively. 

“Potential applications for these leaps forward in technology are almost limitless,” suggested Zimmerman. 

“However, we’re still in the early days for the adoption of a host of new solutions such as Metaverse and Web 3 offerings, and in many cases, companies are just now coming to grips with them.” 

That said, he remains bullish on possibilities for leveraging these high-tech tools and the power and scale that today’s top cloud computing solutions provide to reinvent tomorrow’s working environment. 

“The future of work clearly lies in using technology to power newer and more effective methods of collaboration and employee engagement,” Zimmerman said.

Tools needed to transform traditional offices, workspaces and employee interactions are available today and evolving rapidly. How business leaders learn about and choose to use these new digital collaboration tools will determine how far ahead of the curve they will move their workforce ahead.