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What does the future workplace look like?

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Safe and Smarter Working - A report focusing on the insight into Canon’s annual Parliamentary Reception and the impact of digital security across the private and public sector. 

On Wednesday 23rd November, the Canon team and I were delighted to host our annual Safe & Smart reception in Parliament. The event, now in its 6th year, has become a much-anticipated fixture of the Parliamentary calendar giving leaders from across the public and private sectors the opportunity to share ideas and discuss new ways of working and best practice from their respective government departments and agencies and private businesses. 

My colleagues and I are extremely proud of this event, as it facilitates very high-level discussions around the recurring theme of Safe and Smart that can lead to real improvements in the way people experience the varied goods and services we all provide. 

Our reception was taking place just a few feet from where the Chancellor was delivering his 2016 Autumn Statement. As Philip Hammond set out the Government’s ambitions for a more connected society, including significant investment in broadband and cyber infrastructure, Canon’s Managing Director Stephen Bates and the rest of the Canon team talked with our guests about the challenges and opportunities that are constantly being created in this increasingly digital world. There was a particular focus on how to ensure people can stay safe as they use new technologies, without sacrificing the benefits of ‘smart’ applications in and beyond the office. 

We were also joined by two excellent speakers who gave different perspectives on staying Safe & Smart in the current technology revolution. 

Lucie Glenday, Chief Data Officer at Pathway Ltd, opened with a talk on the transformational power of technology in the care sector. Lucie described how advancing technology creates more opportunities to harness and apply data, so that some of the most vulnerable people in society can enjoy a better standard of living. Vitally, those advances also help people remain exactly where they most want to be - in their own homes – for longer, which dramatically increases the chances of a better outcome. 

It was fascinating to hear Lucie’s account of how technology is being used by Pathway to better understand behavioural patterns and to reduce the need for medical intervention for people receiving care by working with local GPs and other health workers. These advances complement and enhance the work of local healthcare services by using relatively simple algorithms to identify potential problems earlier and, hopefully, make them easier to address. In turn, using technology in this way helps to manage the ever-growing demand for services made by an ageing population. 

Looking to the future, Lucie highlighted how the dramatic and ongoing development of new technologies means we can expect advances that have not even been imagined today to be with us within the next few years. This expectation does not just come from assumptions based on Moore’s Law, but also from real-world experience in the sector as new technologies and applications have been rolled out. As those advances are being made, Lucie stressed the importance of maintaining a strong ethical code in applying new technologies. This is true across all sectors and especially so in the health industry, where people can entrust their personal well-being to strangers at precisely the time they are most vulnerable and unable to protect their own interests. At the same time, Lucie said we need to be constantly looking for opportunities to use new technologies to bring communities together around people who have to look to others for daily care and support. 

We were also delighted to be joined by James Anderson, Chief Technology Officer at the Health & Safety Executive. James spoke about the HSE’s core mission of keeping people’s best interests at heart at all times. This means the HSE seeks to encourage constant vigilance around the workplace and going far beyond the archetypal warning posters that we are all familiar with! And, while there have been significant advances over the years, there is still much to do – James cited the sad statistic that 144 people went to work last year and didn’t come home – and set out how there is an important role for technology to play in keeping people safe. 

James told guests that, like most organizations, the HSE is on a modernizing journey, constantly assessing how technology affects its objectives and the means of reaching them. The pace of technological advance means this effort has to be constantly updated and refreshed, too. Ever-changing demands can be difficult to manage, so James also shared some of his insights into how to encourage others to adapt to change when it needs to happen – explaining how important it is to win over those people who are most sceptical about a new way of doing things, so that they can be turned into advocates for a different approach and actually help to bring others with you, rather than be a source of resistance. 

James also listed practical examples of how technology can improve safety in the workplace. Some of the most dramatic examples James offered included the use of drones in extremely hazardous environments like oil rigs, so that risks to human life are significantly reduced – or even removed altogether. The key to introducing these new technologies successfully is being determined to motivate people to adopt new ways of working where they can and building on what has gone before, James said. 

Ultimately, James explained that a vital ingredient of successful progress is constant challenge and a willingness to resist the temptation of saying “if it’s not broke, don’t try to fix it”. Challenge means people are constantly assessing where new technologies can be applied in the most innovative, effective and safe ways possible – and, potentially, reduce risks that had previously just been accepted as part of the normal cost of doing things. 

To round the discussion off, I offered a few thoughts from the stage and summed up some of the key points from our speakers and other conversations from around the reception. The overriding message of the day was about the growing importance of using technology in a safe and smart way, both in the workplace and in the home, so that everyone can benefit from the new opportunities it provides. 

There was a recognition that the future is an exciting one and new ground is being broken in technology all the time. Indeed, the pace of change can be dizzying sometimes but events like Canon’s Safe & Smart reception provide a real chance for the best minds from every sector to come together, collaborate and share best practice – and to make the most of those changes. 

At Canon, we will always champion and facilitate the vital links between the public sector and the private sector, especially when it comes to sharing ideas about using new technologies. In an age of constant change, the Safe & Smart agenda has never been more important for organisations deciding how to work with advances in data use and management and wider digital technologies. The key messages from our reception will continue to resonate over the coming years. We believe it will be vital that we all work together to make sure people, businesses and our public services are protected and supported as revolutionary technologies are applied more widely. 

We would like to thank all of our guests from across the public sector and private sector who joined us and shared their thoughts on the future – and we look forward to seeing you at our next annual reception in 2017! 

Bob Pickles,
Head of Corporate & Government Affairs
Canon UK & Ireland