As consumers, mobility and smartphones have undoubtedly changed our lives, with more than 90% of the British population owning a mobile phone. Most adults in the UK use a smartphone, mainly for personal activities like checking email, surfing the web, and online shopping, but organisations are also being revolutionised by the proliferation of mobile devices.
The mobile workplace and “supermobility”
Technology can help to increase efficiency (and enjoyment) of many aspects of living, and there is very little that a modern smartphone cannot do. They may persistently eat into our time, but there are of thousands of useful apps mobiles that can help us to utilise our time more effectively, and to be more productive at work.
Today’s businesses seem to recognise that, and instead of using technology solely for communications, more companies are are starting to create mobile apps for the purpose of simplifying our everyday activities and making it easier to access information wherever we are.
In “Revolutionising the Future Workplace”, author Jack Uldrich predicts that smartphones will grow to 2.4 billion units by 2018 – a ratio of six-to-one when compared with PCs.
He says that we are entering the age of “supermobility,” where mobile devices will provide all of the tools and technology that employees need to be productive when on the move, including voice, video and content collaboration solutions. This supermobility leverages technologies such as NFC, Wi-Fi, ultrasonic and other wireless tech, to support easier and more secure access to enterprise tools.
But even when considering a typical workplace today, it’s fair to say that mobile devices (especially with the advent of ‘bring your own device’) have already had a huge impact on the workplace, and the way in which we work.
Companies are already developing and using apps that enable employees to securely connect and access company emails and documents. Partnerships such as the recent agreement between IBM and Apple are also leading to hundreds of specialised vertical apps, for sectors like the aeronautical industry, sales teams, and financial institutions.
But the more ordinary, typical workplace has also been affected by the new wave of mobile-carrying employees, who demand access to their communications and documents when they’re at home or travelling. And being on the road is perhaps the most obvious example that has been fundamentally changed by smartphones and wireless technologies such as 3G and 4G.
Taking my personal experiences as an example, it has been nine years since I have worked in a ‘traditional’ office where each and every employee had a desk and a PC. Mobile networks, smartphones and laptops have enabled me to work more flexibly, while still keeping in regular contact with colleagues via Skype, GoToMeeting and the ability to remotely log into a PC anywhere.
In recent years, I have worked at several small technology companies whose employees travelled frequently and normally spent their working day online at home, or checked emails and carried out duties between flights and meetings.
We’ve already written about the life of digital nomads, but for most people it’s still necessary to commute to an office every day, without the ultimate freedom of home-working. Even for these people, the majority, many companies have realised they need to provide mobile-accessible versions of business tools and systems. There are of course questions about security, information security, and concerns about expecting employees to be ‘on-call’ 24 hours a day – in general though, the ability to quickly check off a few important work emails and tasks whilst at home has become a part of everyday life for many of us.
According to Cisco, corporations are increasingly using mobiles to enable staff to view documents, access employee portals, email, and calendars. Video and photo applications are also gaining momentum, with more than half of organisations (even as far back as 2012) implementing apps that allow employees to watch videos – for example corporate training, or video recordings of meetings and conferences.
The benefits of mobiles taking on key roles at work include increased employee responsiveness and decision-making speed. They are also leading to faster internal issue resolution, but there are also customer-focused benefits such as responding to customer enquiries more quickly, acting on support issues in IT ticketing systems, and in general just being more aware about relevant issues within a company regardless of your physical location.
Ultimately, it’s clear that wireless technologies, apps and smartphones have had an incredible impact on the way we live and work, and that is surely set to continue in even more astonishing and unexpected ways in future.