Europe's public sector workforce predicts that within the next 20 years their offices will be dominated by highly sophisticated technologies that will drastically change the way they work. The future gazing research commissioned by Ricoh Europe and conducted by Coleman Parkes reveals how public sector employees anticipate the arrival of a tech evolved workplace which will make use of augmented reality (70 per cent), desk-based robots (62 per cent) and drones (62 per cent).
While public sector respondents expect relatively slower uptake of new technologies within the next five to ten years – compared to those working in education, financial services and healthcare – they firmly believe that many new innovations will be used in their workplace further into the future. This also includes the arrival of carrier nodes (56 per cent) – which could allow information to be transmitted directly to employee's brains as electronic signals. For example, key data relating to core citizen services, internal initiatives, as well as local, national and EU-wide regulations could be transferred quickly to the public sector employee in advance of an important meeting.
The advantages of a tech evolved workplace, as cited by employees, signify a culture where information and communication can be better streamlined. More than half of respondents believe that establishing a tech evolved workplace will give them better access to the information they need to do their jobs (59 per cent), while 55 per cent say it will help them to complete tasks faster, and 51 per cent agree it will help to improve employee collaboration. With both time and energy saved through the adoption of advanced technology and the core processes that underpin its use, organisations can realign resources and personnel to deliver improved citizen services. Yet, public sector leaders face a series of considerations.
From the evolving economic climate through to the pressure to streamline business processes, leaders are still being tasked 'to do more with less'. The research shows that outside of cost (56 per cent) and security (46 per cent), their own government regulations (43 per cent) are seen to be the biggest hindrance on the sector's ability to embrace new technologies. More than one in four cited the following as additional roadblocks to adopting new technology:
• Employee resistance (33 per cent)
• Reluctance to adopt new ways of working/internal processes (27 per cent)
• Ability to connect with legacy technology systems (27 per cent)
Carsten Bruhn, Executive Vice President, Ricoh Europe, says: "There is little doubt that the future public sector workplace will be different compared to today, as new ways of communicating and receiving information rise to the fore. A future where augmented reality could enable staff to 'step in' and interact with building proposals and envisaged infrastructures is on its way. But as employees have revealed, there are still several key steps that need to be taken before they can benefit from future innovations. Small steps will include better digitisation of business critical processes, and reviewing ways that employees are accessing information. For example, the study shows that almost a third are still not using internal collaboration platforms, while follow-me printing and web-based meetings are also underused."
Additional guidance is set out in the European Commission's push to increase digital interactions and move towards a more tech evolved workplace. The public sector's drive to adopt a technological approach to streamlining operations is supported by the Commission's target to increase use of eGovenment services by 50 per cent amongst citizens and 80 per cent amongst businesses by 2015 .
Bruhn adds, "In addition to accelerating the digitisation of the public sector, national and EU directives can be leveraged to help establish more responsive public services into the future. Such an environment that's always-on, collaborative and interactive can only help to increase productivity and effective communication with citizens. It's exciting to think that new technology could help alleviate the pressure on public sector organisations trying to increase efficiencies and boost citizen-facing services. The year 2034 could well mark the point where the public sector tech evolved workplace was fully realised. It could also form the dawn of a new era when other workplace innovations, such thought-based commands, begin to become the norm.