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Innovation at the kitchen table: A new digital working world?

New technologies are changing the way we live and work – and the coronavirus has given digitization and the like another massive boost. The pandemic has also shaken up our everyday office life. Is smart work the way of the future?

Teresa Scheunert
November 11, 2021
Reading Time: 3 min.

Trade fairs and exchanges in the age of social distancing? Service and support without personal contact? What seemed impossible before the pandemic quickly became reality in 2020. When the world went into lockdown, improvisation was called for – and thanks to digitization, undreamed-of possibilities opened up.

The coronavirus pandemic, for example, shifted office life in many regions to the home office within a very short time. At the height of the 2020 pandemic, 50 percent of employees in Germany, for example, worked from home. Experts estimate that in the medium term, about one-third of employees could work from home. This will also change the spatial situation of office workers: Fewer individual offices or fixed workplaces, but more flexible work and project spaces.

Networking in Corona times: Microsoft Teams daily active users worldwide in millions (Source: Microsoft).

Of course, it’s not just the pandemic that has set this trend in motion. Networking and digitization have been influencing our lives for years, making us increasingly independent. From online orders to virtual exchanges with health insurers, digitization has simplified processes, and many things can be done directly at home – including routine tasks in everyday working life.

Hybrid models as a compromise?

A beautiful, highly digitalized working world in which employees can perform their tasks at home with maximum flexibility? Not quite. Many office tasks still require paper and presence. This sets limits to location-independent “smart work”.

In addition, the demands on employees and managers in the digital office of tomorrow are high. Personal responsibility, self-discipline and the ability to organize oneself are fundamental qualities that employees must have in this new working world. The new flexibility should also contribute to the success of the company. Everyday working life thus quickly becomes a fine line between constant availability and working with crying children next door.

Between presence and virtual: The future of work will probably be a mixture of both.

These are major challenges for employees and employers, and not everyone is open to them. The search for a happy medium is therefore in full swing across all industries. This was also the finding of a study conducted by Computerwoche in 2020. According to the study, modern workplaces and mobility concepts do have a high priority in companies. But exactly what a “smart workplace” will look like is currently still unclear. According to the study, hybrid models are emerging.

The office – a place of encounter?

A pure remote working culture will not prevail, say experts, since human relationships tend to develop in the analog environment. Only when a basis has been established can contacts be continued digitally. And working remotely is not helpful for creativity and team cohesion. Digitalization can be particularly difficult for an open culture of discussion and criticism – but that is the basis for finding solutions together and working innovatively. And for technology companies in particular, this way of working is crucial.

Despite smart, digital concepts, isolation during the 2020 pandemic showed many people: The chance meeting in the cafeteria or the lively exchange around the conference table remain enormously important. So even though digital working worlds and smart-work concepts offer great potential, a company can still be a place of encounter, innovation and identity in the future.

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