As the workforce heads for a flexible future, experts predict new technology will make remote work entirely seamless. Remote work may have been a novelty 20 years ago, but it's quickly becoming the norm—as one of the most in-demand types of workplace flexibility—and experts like Upwork CEO Stephane Kasriel say collaborative tools will evolve accordingly.
In fact, even workers who aren't remote are using tools for remote and/or collaborative work, as any office worker who uses Slack to chat with someone in the same office can attest. Kasriel tells Fast Company these tools will soon become de rigueur, no matter the proximity between coworkers.
"You can see a time when the collaboration tools people use are entirely virtual," he says. "So even if you're sitting next to the person, you still do it through this augmented or virtual-reality world to collaborate on the thing you're working on."
Speaking of virtual reality, VR conferencing will soon make long-distance conversations feel as natural as talking to someone in the same room, whereas current videoconferencing technology still tends to be stilted. Microsoft Research, for example, is developing Holoportation, which captures 3D images of a person to beam a 360-degree hologram of that person to another location in real time. (Holoportation test footage shows one man beaming into a room, Star Trek-style, and high-fiving an occupant of that room before vanishing again.) And Kasriel even thinks that workers could use this kind of technology not just to converse but to communally interact with designs or prototypes in a virtual world.
Meanwhile, remote work will become even more remote. Currently, remote and DeskPlus workers often do each day's work from a fixed location—from home or from a coworking space—because mobile software and tools typically aren't as efficient as their desktop counterparts. (Think, for example, about doing word processing with a touchscreen instead of with a mouse or trackpad.) But Kasriel thinks mobile remote working tools will improve through mobile-first design, predictive text, better speech-to-text software, and artificial intelligence.
And AI can also help manage remote workers by providing instant feedback and helping to prioritize tasks. "You want people to understand that of the three things they could do right now, here is the one that is most aligned with what we're trying to do as an organization," Slack co-founder and CTO Cal Henderson tells Fast Company. "To the extent that technology can help communicate that clarity around vision and priorities, that's hugely helpful for people prioritizing their own work."
All of these technological advances only make the benefits of remote work more accessible to businesses. Remote workers have been proven to be more productive than their in-office kin, with the remote workers of one company doing nearly six days' worth of work in just five. The location independence of Remote and the location variety of DeskPlus also help companies' bottom line by enabling them to optimize their real estate investments. And Remote and the other types of structured flexibility make employees happier, more engaged, and less likely to quit.
To help companies understand how Remote and the other flex types could improve their productivity, employee retention, and business results, we have developed a first-of-its-kind people analytics platform for flexibility. Request a demo to learn more.