Office connectivity away from your desk
The office is changing thanks to new mobile devices and new ways to connect. Alyson Edmunds, O2 Expert Services – Mobility, explores our new world of work
Wires, cables, plug sockets, monitors. Once, they were staples of the working environment. Crucial elements of the office we couldn’t live without. But technology is changing, and it is dragging the office as we know it into a new digital era.
The rise of smartphones
But what does the modern-day office look like compared to its counterpart 10 years ago? To answer that question, we need to look at the changes to the tools we use every day. And the most drastic of those has been in the world of devices.
The demise of feature phones and the advent of smart phones, particularly in the last five years, has seen connectivity soar. Between 2002 and 2006 only 715,000 smartphones were sold worldwide. Now smartphone users will total 1.75 billion by the end of 2014. Workers no longer need to be tethered to a desk and plugged into the LAN, to access that crucial pie chart online or write up last week’s board report.
However, it’s not only the growth in smartphones that has precipitated this change in how people work. 2G, 3G and now 4G have allowed people to fully embrace flexible working. Now, it’s possible to work anytime, anywhere, downloading files and streaming content. Just this morning I used my 4G phone to make a video conference call while I was out of the office. With 4G and WiFi, the idea of truly flexible working has been fully realised.
Getting connected is quick and easy
Although individuals are taking advantage of this increased connectivity, it’s businesses and institutions that are really innovating to take advantage of the connected world. In the public sector, the Metropolitan Police recently announced a trial of body-worn video cameras that use 4G to stream content, and we can expect the same thing soon with fire and ambulance services.
In the private sector, pop-up shops and offices are becoming more common, particularly in retail and construction. Ten years ago, the idea of setting up a temporary office on a building site with the same levels of connectivity as a permanent office would have been ludicrous. Construction companies now do this within hours, all over the country.
This evolution in hardware has been accompanied by a drastic change in the software used by consumers and businesses. The cloud, until recently only associated with meteorology and British summers, is now a vital global business tool.
Businesses and institutions are innovating to take advantage of the connected world
Apps and the cloud
You are probably already aware of the financial benefits of the cloud, with natural economies of scale, zero capital costs and lower power costs. But a much more obvious advantage is how it has helped bring about the boom in mobile applications. Since the app store was created in 2008, 50 billion apps have been downloaded.
While I’m sure many of these have been to meet people’s desire to fling angry birds across their screens, organisations have embraced the idea of a simple functional tool, hosted in the cloud, that boosts productivity. Whether it’s to convert currency or check the stock market, mobile applications can be the catalyst to help your organisation realise the benefits of flexible working.
The changing office environment has not come about as a result of the development of a specific product, but a range of technologies. Here at O2, we have fully embraced the culture of flexible working, actively encouraging our employees to utilise our fantastic 4G network and WiFi hotspots. Its adoption meant we were able to remove 548 desks at our head office in Slough with an overall saving of £3.85 million.
Flexibility, collaboration and connectivity. These are the terms that will shape how we work in the next decade. The technology is there to allow us to work flexibly. It’s up to us to embrace it.