We read articles and watch videos all the time about the future of work. Design trends point toward a more collaborative working environment that supports creativity, self-expression, and a focus on meeting the needs and wants of today’s consumer.

Many of us might also envision hoverboards and “Minority Report”-style transparent screens too, but maybe that’s just me.

According to a new State of Enterprise Work report, conducted by Workfront, there are several important trends coming to the office of the future.

That got me thinking: How can we, as employees and leaders of this future workplace, be better prepared to stay focused and productive in what will likely be an environment full of distractions?

I spoke with Workfront’s CEO Alex Shootman to discuss these top-of-mind questions and pinpoint ways employees can see success when adapting to a futuristic work environment.

How can businesses flex their remote-work muscles while keeping output and collaboration up?

Remote work is an interesting conundrum. It’s proven to promote healthy employees, reduce overhead costs, support environmentally-friendly efforts, offer additional talent and resources outside of your geography, and add flexibility to employees’ lives across the board. At the same time, it can be challenging for new players in the remote work arena to determine the processes and routines that operate best for their unique teams.

The Huffington Post’s Alvin Chia published an article earlier this year where he reported that a major reason many large corporations are embracing remote work is because of the growing pool of talented and affordable freelancers available via the internet. Alvin concludes in his piece that allowing remote work leads to higher worker retention, lower HR costs, and more growth for the company — and I would have to agree. Those benefits are hard to ignore.

In the next three to five years, 52 percent of workers think the majority of employees will work remotely. Finding tools and resources that work the best for your needs will be the biggest thing a business can do to alleviate the occasional curve ball you see with remote work. It’ll also offer an ongoing, central hub for communications and project updates between team members, departments and executives.

Are meetings a necessary evil, or can we expect to toss those out the window one day?

I don’t think I’m the only one who’s found myself in a meeting where I’ve gotten distracted thinking about my other to-dos, lunch, an upcoming vacation, or even how my time could be spent more wisely. By the end of it, the purpose of the meeting has been lost entirely, and no progress has been made between participants. That’s not a sign of bad employees or management — it probably simply means the meeting was too long or scheduled for the wrong reasons.

We’re not alone — 36 percent of employees agree meetings will be drastically reduced in the next five years.

I get a lot of questions wondering if the workplace can actually survive with fewer meetings, questions I admittedly had myself when I first began addressing this challenge. First, we need to work hard to ensure meetings are efficient, scheduled only to find a solution, and don’t get off-track with rehashing to-dos. The other part of the answer in reducing meetings also lies in work tools that allow enterprise workers to collaborate and keep each other updated over distances.

Email takes so much time out of our day. What’s the future of team communication and productivity?

It’s probably safe to say most of us don’t have fond feelings when it comes to our inboxes, not to mention the constant grooming they require. But think about what work would be like without email. Weird, right? How would you do anything? Yet, according to our survey, more than one-quarter of our latest survey respondents agreed that, in five years, email would be replaced as a main mode of office communication.

The idea of no email ever again might sound appealing to anyone after a 10-hour day staring at your new messages folder, but we probably won’t ever be able to manage the complete eradication of email. As we move into the future office environment, email will likely evolve into a different role for the next generation of the workforce, with collaborative tools and messaging systems phasing in more heavily.

Kelly Santina, head of operations at Convince & Convert, has collaborated with Workfront in the past, and she firmly believes that for any size team, a project management tool is becoming as vital as a computer. I agree with her here, and think there are too many benefits that outweigh any financial or transitional costs of implementing a collaboration tool.

If you ask me, the future of work is bright, but it’s time to prepare for the fast-approaching changes that have already begun.


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Thunderbird School of Global Management Alumna Dana Manciagli '84 is the author of "Cut the crap, Get a job". With her 'Career Mojo' column, Dana is the sole syndicated career columnist for the Business Journal nationwide. Her remarkable profile includes a career in global sales and marketing for Fortune 500 corporations like Microsoft, IBM, and Kodak. She has coached, interviewed and hired thousands of job seekers. This article was originally published on her website.