Will Flawed Devices Undermine The New Normal Hybrid Workforce?
The Covid-19 pandemic has redefined how and where we work. Despite toilet paper panic buying, the global economy escaped a catastrophic downfall largely thanks to modern technology. Workers unable to physically convene in offices quickly adapted to virtual meetings from home. The swift transition from the physical to the virtual workplace took place because of three enablers — broadband internet, virtual collaboration tools, and connected devices — or the “connectivity triumvirate” for short. The distributed workforce necessitated by the pandemic has opened the aperture on what’s possible. Henceforth, the workplace will be one where many workers continue to work from anywhere — from home, from a rental house, and from the office. This reality will place an even greater reliance on the connectivity triumvirate to evolve in supporting the future of work. Yet, one of the three can poses significant risks to the success of the hybrid workforce if not better managed: connected devices.
The Hybrid Workforce Becomes Contagious
Many workers were already taking advantage of modern technology to work fluidly across global teams. Living and working from temporary locations, “digital nomads” seized the flexibility provided by the connectivity triumvirate lending steam to the growing trend with a 50% increase from 2019 to 2020¹. Yet, the pandemic supercharged the growing trend as more than 2/3rd of US professionals moved to working remotely².
Many workers appreciate the newfound freedom of working where they want. Since October 2020, about 80% of remote workers say they enjoy working remotely³. 65% of professionals prefer a hybrid model of partially working remotely and partially in the office to all in-person or all-remote in the future⁴. Most companies are taking notice. 86% of global businesses realize the remote and in-person workplaces will comingle⁵.
The future workplace will be a hybrid model. We will continue to need high performance, up-to-date smartphones, tablets, laptops, and smartwatches to connect us with virtual meeting spaces and asynchronous collaboration applications powered by reliable, high speed internet connections.
All three enablers of the connectivity triumvirate are necessary and mutually reinforcing to power the future of work. The pandemic has fueled remarkable advancement in how workers and employers utilize the internet and collaboration tools, but workers still have poor options in how they own and manage their connected devices.
ISPs Answers the Call
Internet usage surged after the world learned about Covid-19, with some global networks seeing up to a 60% increase in traffic just within the first few months of the pandemic⁶. Internet usage not only increased, but it also redistributed. More demand is coming from individual’s homes rather than workplaces. Remote work, virtual schooling, and streaming media intensified the reliance of strong and steady home internet connections. Internet service providers (ISPs) responded quickly to the increases and changing usage patterns to accommodate remote work.
Recognizing the growing need, ISPs have supplemented network adjustments with new products and services to help businesses and workers thrive in the new hybrid workplace. Many carriers, such as Rogers in Canada, now offer a dedicated broadband line for work. Rogers also offers a cloud-based VPN product to connect any residential Wi-Fi network to a company’s LAN network⁷. Verizon in the US wants to help the growing number of enterprises focused on migrating to cloud-based systems to better support a decentralized workforce⁸. In addition to offering dedicated business internet at home, Vodafone UK also offers resources for individual workers looking for their next job⁹.
Collaboration Tools Surge
The upswing in internet demand was partially caused by the workforce’s sudden reliance on video conferencing. In turn, the rapid shift to the work-from-anywhere model gave virtual collaboration tools a steroid shot for growth. Zoom has become a household brand. Companies rely on Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Workspace, and other productivity applications for daily connectivity and productivity. Tools such as Miro have replaced in-person, interactive workshops with digital collaboration space leading to explosive growth — 300% in 8 months in the case of Miro¹⁰. Augmented reality tools no longer seem so futuristic. In August 2021, Oculus launched Horizon Workrooms, a VR powered workplace that attempts to simulate the in-person experience of gathering around a conference table¹¹.
The pandemic drove necessity in adopting virtual collaboration tools that may have otherwise been much slower and more challenging to integrate into daily work life. The jump in demand for these types of applications will surely result in greater investment and development to enable the work-from-anywhere model.
When Connected Device Fail to Connect Us
While new internet services and collaboration applications soared during the pandemic, connected devices, the third of the hybrid workforce triumvirate, remain largely unchanged. Workers and employers still rely on traditional models to own and experience connected devices. As a result, devices create vulnerabilities in maintaining the hybrid workplace model. Poor device performance can quickly make any internet infrastructure or collaboration tool irrelevant. If a device doesn’t work properly — it fails to hold a battery charge, it has a cracked screen, it’s slow — workers no longer benefit from the gains in internet infrastructures and collaboration tools. Instead, productivity falters.
The work-from-anywhere model means fewer workers have ready access to the traditional model of an in-person IT department to troubleshoot or offer “loaner” devices when needed. Instead, when a child drops and cracks a tablet, individual workers are left to sort it out themselves. This often means frustrated troubleshooting to navigate both corporate policy on what to do with the device and carrier channels to repair or replace it, amounting to undue stress and lost time.
The hybrid workplace of tomorrow requires a better approach to managing connected devices for individuals and employers. Kingfisher’s revolutionary mobile experience, Flip, empowers carriers to give their business customers easier, nimbler fleet management. With Flip, employees can change out their connected device from home or at their local store whenever they need to. Companies can flex their fleet to increase or decrease devices in use based on staffing needs of the moment without worrying about fixed contracts. Carriers can give their business customers a better mobile experience with Flip to keep businesses thriving anywhere that work gets done.
2 Upwork Report One Year Remote
4 Zoom, What People Really Think About Hybrid Work
5 Verizon, New Digital Workplace Overcoming Limits
6 OECD, Keeping the Internet Up and Running in Times of Crisis