In the last decade, workplace communications technology saw accelerated growth as organizations of all sizes migrated their on-premises systems to the cloud. The rapid rise of cloud communications represents a desire from organizations to embrace digital transformation and enhance the communication and collaboration experience of employees. Reaching colleagues now is as easy as opening a smartphone app and typing away, and video meetings can launch with a single click.
This begs the question: What’s in store for workplace communications going forward? Will it maintain its momentum? What new technologies and advancements will we see? Moving into a new decade, here are some trends to look forward to:
1. User experience will be the key differentiator
Implementing new communications technology is one thing, but employee adoption is another. Millennials and Gen Zers grew up with communications technology (Instagram, Messenger, FaceTime) and expect the same seamless experiences in their professional lives. For example, it takes a single tap to switch from texting to calling or FaceTime. If organizations don’t provide the same user experience in their workplace communications, their employees will search for better options.
The current communications ecosystem is flooded with an app for every business need, often overwhelming employees. Studies show that 68% of employees toggle between apps 10 times an hour, while some employees toggle up to 15 times. Combined with arrays of other tasks, notifications, and meetings, employee attention spans have dwindled. Employers will naturally move toward integrated solutions that combine multiple functions and reduce overabundance.
As organizations simplify their technology, unified communications solutions will take center stage. Unified solutions like the RingCentral app combine team messaging, video conferencing, and cloud phone, allowing employees to effortlessly switch how they communicate with a single click. With multiple features bundled together, unified communications give employees the user experience they need to focus less on technology and more on productivity.
2. Video conferencing will venture into UHD
Ultra high-definition (UHD) video is no longer a question of if, but when. Our devices can now record and output 4K resolution video, and our internet has scaled up to handle the bandwidth. Together with the eventual rollout of 5G connectivity, we’ll begin to see higher video quality in every virtual meeting, making face-to-face interactions over the internet more immersive.
3. 5G will accelerate the switch to mobile- and video-first
4G set the stage for mobile workplace communications, but the emergence of 5G will completely transform communication and collaboration. Current projections indicate that 5G will boast 10 times the speed of 4G—a monumental leap in internet speeds. In fact, Sam Rutherford, a reporter at Gizmodo, downloaded an entire Netflix season in under one minute.
As 5G rolls out worldwide and compatible mobile devices fill the market, video meetings will increasingly go mobile. Faster internet speeds will allow employees to reliably connect to video meetings from anywhere while sending high-quality video with minimal latency issues. Remote employees can take full advantage of 5G’s reliability and communicate and collaborate from anywhere.
4. Artificial intelligence will further drive productivity
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning represent the next frontiers of workplace communications. According to a Gartner CIO survey, AI implementation has risen 270% since 2015, with 37% of respondents reporting that their organization has deployed AI.
Communications will start to integrate more artificial intelligence in the coming years. For example, in video meetings, AI can evaluate the success rate of certain segments of presentations by gauging participant engagement. AI then sorts the information to educate presenters on what techniques and styles are more effective for certain people, allowing for more personalized communication experiences in meetings.
The first iterations of artificial intelligence will likely be enhancements to existing communication features, such as speech-to-text and automatic translations. Near the end of the decade, we’ll start to see primitive versions of stand-alone artificial intelligence products that can fully automate tasks and allow employees to focus on ideation.
5. Workplace communications will be data-driven
Workplace communications have mostly developed organically. HR and IT teams might look at email open rates and conduct surveys on employee needs, but that’s the extent of workplace communications engagement.
As organizations further enhance workplace communications, however, data will play a much larger role. Analytics will provide detailed insights into how employees interact with certain tools and features. For example, data can tell how many employees use certain channels, how often they use them, and what devices they use to log in. These insights can inform decision-makers and influence long-term communications strategies that enable workers to create and optimize their own workflows.
6. Transparency and employee recognition take center stage
Many organizations have adopted the employee-first mantra, but in the next decade, organizations of all sizes will fully embrace the employee experience. A study by Gallup shows that organizations with highly engaged employees are four times more successful than those without, and outperform competitors by 147% in earnings per share.
The employee-first approach depends on transparency and recognition. Employees want to understand their roles in the larger organization and communicate honestly with their managers. When they feel heard, employees are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. Similarly, recognition is just as essential. Four out of five employees say they work harder when they feel more appreciated by their bosses. As a result, we’ll start to see public praise and open communication become the new normal in workplace communications.
A new decade of work powered by communications technology
The nature of work is rapidly evolving. Distributed workforces, work cultures, generational preferences, and technologies continue to evolve at a rapid pace. As organizations search for new ways to optimize employee productivity and business success, we’ll see many exciting transformations to workplace communications.
Unified communications will, no doubt, play a major role in the next decade. Organizations are increasingly embracing remote work, with 41% of global businesses surveyed already offering some degree of work flexibility. Impending technologies, such as 5G, will accelerate the mobile-first culture and change how employees prefer to communicate. Solutions like the RingCentral app—which combines team messaging, video conferencing, and cloud phone—will allow tomorrow’s employees to collaborate from virtually anywhere using any device of their choosing.
Organizations that equip their employees with unified communications are better prepared to tackle the communication challenges of the next decade. Make sure your organization is ready.
Originally published May 14, 2020, updated Jul 20, 2021