In 2019, I predict the UC industry will shift its focus away from innovation targeting “the workplace of the future” and move toward creating solutions for the “next generation human experience.” What do I mean by that? As millennials and GenY workers increasingly become senior leaders in business, they will bring their flexible approach to working to bear in creating companies that embrace a smarter working focus: it’s not about where you work, but how you drive productivity, innovation, and connection with the right tools.

Companies like Plantronics realize that work and making human connections is happening everywhere, and we need to create the seamless, easy experiences that make those connections stronger. And while, yes, that does include equipping great conference rooms in a workspace, it goes much further.

This transformation will come from the intersection of the new generation of worker and new technology that makes everyday life of people different. It has been well reported many employees are seeking a work-life balance. Studies show that this doesn’t necessarily mean work less but work differently and more flexibly. These workers still put in 40+ hour weeks, but don’t want to in a static location that whole time.

Smart companies put thought and effort into making their workspaces the place people are productive and can flourish – but people are connected all the time — at work, at home, and on the move. Not only are people connected, but the connected world around them is changing dramatically. Autonomous cars will be on our roads this year and could be the norm very soon, adding potentially productive time to everyone’s day. Imagine when all the energy and focus we put into our commutes can be channeled towards collaborating and getting our work done.

The shift I am predicting is about centering every communication and collaboration around the human, not just the room or the space. Imagine a person being able to great HD video and audio calls securely and privately wherever they are, using voice commands to start and stop any connection. At Plantronics, we are already focused on this. We are investing in cloud and AI technology to create experiences – not just wearables – so every person will be able to connect and collaborate with their voice.

One big area where the human experience will improve in 2019 will be open offices. We have all heard the complaints about the noise and distractions of working in an open plan office. At Plantronics, we have been passionate about living the challenges that our customers face, and our experience in our Santa Cruz HQ led us to do something about noise. The open office isn’t going away, but in the year ahead, I believe the human experience in those workplaces will begin to improve with advances that we, and others in our industry, are providing. 2019 will be turning point for all those haters of open offices!

I believe human connections are critical to not only productivity, but human connections are essential to our education, health care, and governments. Human connections are what build the positive elements of our society. By focusing on human-centric solutions in 2019, I see us taking a big step forward towards bringing people together.

Human-centric innovation can change the world and it comes to life in 2019.