The work together, anywhere revolution – is here to stay

Ricoh’s Director of Strategy and Innovation, Mike Baddeley discusses the paradigm shift happening right now.

With over 30 years in the technology industry, he’s been mapping and predicting the trends we now find ourselves implementing in weeks, rather than years. This article takes a look at how our workstyles are influencing our interaction with technology and what this means for us all.

Conference call

During this period of accelerated remote working, video conferencing has become the key collaboration tool for many. But more than simply connecting us for a virtual face to face has inadvertently enabled a mini social experiment. As people have begun to play with the editable background in some collaboration tools, it has become a window into where the person on the call would like to be.

But how much does the choice of these backgrounds reveal about our personalities and, more than that, how much do they reveal about our human desires? Our urge to connect with people in places we dream of being. Perhaps this is a glimpse into the future of work? One where we have the opportunity to work together, anywhere?

History shows us the potential, multiplied.

Historically speaking, the industrial revolution provided new ways of mechanising and organising work at scale, something which could never have imagined pre-1760. Then, in the 1950s, businesses started on the journey to the digital revolution which fundamentally changed working practices again. Soon the laptop unshackled a lucky few from their desks and remote working was born. In 1995 the first smartphone appeared and, before long, we were at home sitting on our couches replying to messages from colleagues on the other side of the world.

Now, due to circumstances beyond our control, the mobile revolution is being driven forward at a pace we could never have expected. Yes, we could all see the potential, and, to some extent, we’re moving towards a more agile way of working. But today’s situation has forced us to accelerate our approach, pushing us far beyond our comfort zone, and into the relative unknown.

The result? A testbed for how things will be in the future. So, today we are witnessing the exploration of the visual possibilities offered by the video conference backgrounds. But are we, in fact, seeing, first hand, an early vision of what the future of work could look like? Technology is fast enabling all of us to be part of a work together anywhere revolution. It is giving people control to do what they need, where they need to do it.

The future workplace

The future of work will provide us with collaboration spaces more akin to the Holodeck on the Starship Enterprise. A fully immersive and interactive personal space where we can create or replicate our favourite working environment. Having different creative environments dependent on the type of work we are choosing to do. And at the same time, satisfying the human need to interact with others by providing an ability to invite participants into this personal space. Giving the opportunity to engage and interact with others, whether that be colleagues, associates, or simply like-minded people.

From video conferencing to augmented reality

These ideas may seem far fetched. But are they? View them against the technology we have now, and what will be soon available and you may reconsider. Augmented reality such as Microsoft Hololens and Oculus Rift virtual reality meeting spaces are already available. These bring a sense of physical engagement regardless of the distance between participants.

Cloud has enabled software, teams, and service providers to work and access systems remotely, wherever they are. Robotic Process Automation streamlines and rapidly enhances processes. The digitisation of all manner of devices from Interactive whiteboards to smart lockers enables them to connect to the web for greater sharing of data. With near-zero latency, everyone will have a much greater capacity for working together, anywhere.

This work together anywhere approach, underpinned by technology, will create workspaces where you feel confident and comfortable. Able to discuss freely and bring focus to both your work and interactions with others. They will be adaptable to support every personality, from backgrounds or environments which are for the more reserved to plain bonkers to ignite the creative juices of others. And these technologies will be open for everyone, wherever and however they work.

A new era of communications and collaboration

Gone will be the blocky conference call and in will come a new era of communications. With pixel sharp resolution enabling us to better see facial expressions and greater immersiveness, enhancing the emotional connection. Where everyone feels more connected and able to carry out their tasks without interruption. Organisations now have the opportunity to fully embrace this change. Taking their business effectiveness and productivity to the next level, as well as empowering employees to choose how and when they work.

People, empowered by technology, will be the most important asset

Technology will be the enabler, but organisations will recognise the true value their people add. Whilst technology can process at speed, and scale to accelerate output, it cannot replicate the ingenuity and infinite flexibility of the human brain. People will remain the most important asset for all organisations and this will become central to workplace culture. How they choose to work will adapt to their physical, emotional, and well-being needs as humans.

We’ve had a taste of the future.

We have all stopped apologising on conference calls when the kids make a noise or the wind unexpectedly slams a door. We have become open to working together anywhere. And the outcome has the potential to be as wondrous as the backdrop you select for your next conference call.

How a technology partner will help your organisation today

For many, the shift to working remotely may feel new, even awkward, or difficult. And relying on technology to connect with colleagues or adapt our established processes is a challenge. But these ideas have been slowly forming in the minds of forward-thinking organisations for many years. But even this time last year they were considered by many as ‘a nice to have’. Not a permanent way of working for the masses. Now they are essential to an organisation’s operational continuity.

To react to this fast-approaching future, and ensure your organisation capitalises by working together anywhere, you need an experienced technology partner at your side. Ricoh has long been supporting how people use technology in the workplace, with solutions ready for the next-generation of mobile workers. Firmly taking a people-centric approach, Ricoh designs organisation-wide technology solutions to transform how your people, processes, and workspaces perform; ensuring security runs throughout the proposition from edge to core.

Whilst we can’t promise you a Holodeck just yet, we can support you on your journey there. For more information download our latest insight report.


Click to read Work Together, Anywhere


And if you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with me on LinkedIn.


Mike Baddeley

Head of Innovation and Strategy at Ricoh UK

Read all articles by Mike Baddeley