Go with the flow

The workforce of today is changing. Work is no longer confined to the office and putting in a traditional nine-to-five shift is slowly becoming a thing of the past.

The importance of mobility in the workplace has grown significantly in recent years, driven by technological innovations like smartphones, cloud computing and the Internet of Things. The traditional confines of 20th century business have been eroded and now customers, clients and employees demand the tools required to work whenever and wherever they need to.

Over the last decade the number of companies introducing WFH (work from home) or BYOD (bring your own device) policies has greatly increased, reflecting a change in work attitude. It is fair to say that business has been undergoing a digital transformation since the first-ever BlackBerry was handed out to an employee so they could access their work emails on the go.

Those who are unwilling to adopt mobility risk being overtaken by competitors who are willing to embrace the new workforce mentality. But in 2018, mobility in business is about far more than handing out smartphones or laptops to the workforce. Mobility has taken on new meaning, no longer referring exclusively to devices. Instead employees demand content, data and services are made mobile and accessible across multiple platforms and devices wherever and whenever.

The concept of the mobile workforce was the focus of the keynote speech at Microsoft’s recent Future Decoded event. In his address, corporate vice-president of Devices, Panos Panay, focused on the ‘changing work environment’ in what he described as ‘the essence of the modern workplace’.

“Your workplace is no longer bound to the office. People work everywhere and people work anywhere,” he said. “Your customers and you can collaborate from different spaces. But probably more importantly, in your global companies, with that mobile workforce, bringing together all of these assets at one time to get all of your ideas in the same place is critical.”

Panay also highlighted workers’ ability to move seamlessly from one device to another. To start your day on your phone, move on to your tablet and pick up where you left off on your laptop. It is an emerging work practice that he describes as ‘continuously staying in your flow’.

“Once you start moving and the technology disappears because the tools are right, you’re using the right data, you’re using the Cloud and everything that’s coming with you,” he added.

It is the concept of ‘staying in your flow’ that sparked the incarnation of Airtame. A wireless device that plugs into the HDMI port of any screen or projector and streams your content to the screen from a computer or mobile device, Airtame is effectively a Chromecast for business. And yet the point of it, as product manager Simon Hansen explains, is to allow the workforce ‘to be seamless’.

“We wanted to create something that would allow for a greater flow in the professional work place,” he said. “Chromecast and other products already do a good job of streaming content for the consumer market. Airtame offers the ability to fully mirror any device onto a screen with just two clicks.”

He adds: “The original concept was born out of a frustration with cables and adaptors. In the past workers spent more time messing about with cables than they did showing content.”

The Danish entrepreneurs were clearly not alone in their desire to do away with cables. After launching its crowdfunding page on Indiegogo in November 2013, Airtame accumulated $1.3 million worth of investment in the first two months alone. It was an incredible reaction from the world and one that tells you all you need to know about the demand for greater mobility in business.

As well as creating a seamless flow in the workplace, mobility is also driving collaboration efforts. Cloud computing has allowed for employees to work together at the same time from different sides of the globe. Google Drive for example allows employees to simultaneously access, modify and collaborate on the same documents from wherever they are in the world. Likewise, Synology’s DSM (DiStation Manager) and Cloud Station offerings have been designed to allow employees to keep working from wherever they are.

Joanne Plummer, Synology’s marketing manager for the UK, Ireland and the Nordics explains: “The recent weather is a perfect example of how being flexible and having working from home policies in place can benefit your business. With DSM you can give workers constant access to what they need or you can programme temporary access in cases where they are unable to get to work.”

She adds: “As working remotely has become more and more important, it is integral to ensure workers have the tools they need wherever, whenever. With Synology’s Cloud Station app, you can access our equivalent of word or excel and work even if you are on a flight. Then when you reconnect to WiFi your work is updated in the Cloud. Having everything app based means that workers can even work from their phones or tablets if their laptop is down. The point of all of this is to increase productivity and reduce wasted time.”

Yet for all the productivity that is being generated through mobility there is one note of caution that, now more than ever, cannot be overlooked. As William Downing, a specialist in employment law at Blake Morgan, points out: “GDPR will continue to place an obligation on organisations to ensure personal data is processed securely”. This is especially relevant to schemes such as BYOD that are designed to encourage mobility in the work place.

Morgan continues: “Allowing staff to use their own devices for work has considerable benefits for employers, allowing flexibility for employees and reducing costs. However, organisations will remain responsible for securing all personal data and for guarding against unauthorised use of that data. In preparation for GDPR coming into force on May 25 2018, it would be prudent for organisations to review their approach to employees using their own devices for work. In particular, they will need to review and, if necessary, strengthen their security measures for data accessed by employees on their own devices.”

With the caveat of being GDPR-aware, mobility in the workplace has, is, and will continue, to change the way we all do business. It is likely to change the way that everybody runs their business from the larger enterprises to the small independent employers. Likewise mobility is unlikely to be restricted to business and will soon seep into the education, personal and commercial spheres as demand grows for a seamless reality. 

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