The Internet, such as it is, affected numerous aspects of modern day life, and the way we work falls into that category. As technology races to bring more innovation into offices around the world, the landscape slightly changes each time, making work easier and more effective. This is particularly true for the remote workforce, arguably the leading factor in the changing workplace environment.
It’s not just a passing trend: data shows a continual rise in the number of remote workers. For instance, UpWork’s Future Workforce Report shows companies are embracing agile, remote teams with almost two-thirds (63 percent) of companies today having remote workers. Another report shows 70 percent of professionals work remotely at least one day a week, while 53 percent work remotely for at least half of the week.
And it’s all thanks to technology and all its forms, shapes, and sizes. Digital is reshaping every industry, primarily by changing the traditional perceptions concerning locations and working hours, as well as the way the very work is done.
The next logical step
Let’s take a closer look at virtual reality for a minute as one of the most exciting technologies out there. While not quite yet meeting the (often unreal) expectations, VR shows a lot of promise. Besides the numerous examples of it benefiting business operations such as simulating business strategies and understanding consumer behavior and product consumption, in a more corporate sense, the immersive technology has the power to further expand the value of communication.
For larger companies and enterprises whose workforce is spread across different locations, remote working adds a layer of complexity to internal machinations, one that technology successfully diminishes. With VR, the idea of working remotely turns into a more valuable and more personal experience.
A virtual business meeting is a perfect example of taking things to the next level. Participants could have a wide array of information at their disposal, like relevant notes and action items being pulled up on the screen, along with each other’s business and social media credentials easily formed and distributed. They could perform actions like drawing on a virtual whiteboard for a classic presentation feel while the software automatically schedules follow-up meetings based on synced participants' calendars and ongoing meeting discussions - the list goes on.
Education and training programs are another example of more productive experiences than in-person meetings, where immersive and interactive simulations make sure information is readily available and easily digestible for collaboration and sharing.
VR is still far from mainstream use, especially outside the enterprise levels. However, there is no shortage of new technologies that amplify out-of-office working, particularly working on the move. 5G is one of those promising developments that should scale up the flexibility of working with a smartphone or laptop from any location. Its predecessor 4G has already done a decent job at this, but it leaves a lot to be desired. 5G is the next generation of mobile technology that promises to increase data speeds and lower latencies on network response times, the two main factors to more immersive experiences.
Reliable and speedy connectivity is critical to reliance on remote working where remarkably higher throughput, lower latency, and greater mobility rival fixed broadband, all for the sake of better business communication. No more spotty network coverage, unstable and/or low-quality video conferencing, lack of bandwidth for downloading and responding, dropped calls - 5G will take remote working into new, fairly unexplored territories that aren’t plagued by these issues. Mind you, 5G is not just about mobile devices - it’s about all online connected devices, from smart-home gadgets to self-driving cars and self-guiding machines.
While the delivery of 5G is largely set for 2019, there's still a lot of work to be done to make it happen. In the meantime, there are already instances where technology affects remote working big time. One such is remote radiology or teleradiology, which allows for faster diagnostics and treatment. In a nutshell, remote radiologists don’t have to be on-site, which, in turn, reduces cost by eliminating the need for full-time employment and prevents manpower shortage, especially during night shifts and holidays.
Specific cases like teleradiology point out to one fact: there’s a need and place for a remote workforce almost anywhere. And it’s not like there are insurmountable challenges to overcome. Basically, all you need are collaboration tools to get your business organised (arguably an easy task) and you’re pretty much set. The supply of qualified remote workers is taken care by workforce technology platforms that facilitate experts with diverse skills and needs to wherever they’re needed.
The mainstays like UpWork and Fivver as two of the industry’s most recognizable names, but also emerging networks like Humans Net are a form of technology on their own, with subtle differences. These platforms are similar in that they connect workers with clients across various skill categories but they function differently. While the former two strictly offer services to certain target professions, the latter is a more inclusive platform that caters to all skillsets. Together, they are the service enablers, means for people from one corner of the Earth to virtually work on another, with people they would have otherwise never met. The popularity of these platforms is the best indicator of how technology, regardless of how fancy or flashy it is or isn’t, can narrow the opportunity gap and bring the best of what it can offer to both sides.
The role of technology in everyday life is massive, opening seemingly endless possibilities. In business terms, along with tangible benefits, it created an expectation that a worker should have the freedom to work remotely, without the constraints of an office desk or a time zone. And the truth is - people love working remotely, one of the factors that continue to spur the growth of remote work. As more specialized professionals demand more freedom in regard to their work schedules and locations, companies introduce remote working policies instead of their traditional policies in order to keep up with this globally accepted practice.
So far, remote work has shown it positively contributes when it comes to employee productivity and engagement, and affects various other workplace aspects like creativity, employee retention, costs, diversity - all for the better. By embracing solutions to make the remote workforce deliver their best work and be easier to manage, businesses can raise their workforce’s effectiveness to new levels and streamline the organization’s performance. Today, it’s easier than ever to work remotely and as ever, technology helps.
Vlad Dobrynin, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Humans.net
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