James Morrish, Chief Technologist for HP UK & Ireland, reveals the working habits of business travellers and how technology is impacting on this.
It is official. The evolution of the office worker is complete. While mobile technology broke down the barriers to remote working a while ago, it’s now helping to eliminate the final barriers preventing busy business travellers working anywhere, any time – they never need to stand still.
Gone are the days when busy executives had no choice on a long haul flight other than read the FT, relax, review the wine list and immerse themselves in a film en-route to meeting destinations like Dubai. The latest technology means executives can (and are often expected to) operate with pretty much the same productivity at their office desk or 30,000 feet in the air.
While some may lament the loss of free time, a growing number are embracing travel time to get ahead of the game in their line of work – a recent HP study found that 88 per cent of business travellers use new technology to get ahead by catching up on email, researching information and editing content.
Analysts at IDC predict that the mobile workforce will increase from just over a billion in 2010 to more than 1.3 billion (that’s 37 per cent of the global workforce) by 2015.(2) With more of the workforce aiming to be productive on the go, IT departments face stretching challenges in meeting their needs and aspirations.
Highly effective habits
Whether it’s ‘country hopping’ corporate executives working in airports or ‘road warriors’ taking a break from behind the wheel on a visit to see a customer, mobile devices have become essential tools for busy executives. They are driving new style of IT defined by connectivity and this is ushering in radical new form factors to replace old-world categories.
This is the age of anywhere, anytime, any device; a time when efficiency, flexibility, productivity and access must come together brilliantly to help business people create, consume or share wherever, whenever, however they want.
In an effort to maximise productivity, travellers try to work at every stage of their journey with the average business person taking a flight spending 17 per cent of time working on the way to or from the airport, 17 per cent at the airport, 20 per cent on the plane and 31 per cent at their hotel. With more airlines rolling out in-flight Wi-Fi on planes, business travellers can stay connected to their colleagues on the ground at any time. The challenge for many will be ensuring their devices are fit to take advantage of such opportunities with sufficient battery life and all the work-related applications they might need.
On average, European business travellers carry three devices when they travel – laptop (71 per cent), smartphone (70 per cent) and tablet (52 per cent), but 50 per cent say it’s difficult to take all their devices everywhere.
HP’s recent study into the habits and working styles of regular business travellers across 12 European countries showed 93 per cent are using travel time to complete preparation for meetings, with 54 per cent spending at least half their journey doing work related to the purpose of travel.
Britons are the busiest, with 67 per cent spending more than half their journey preparing for forthcoming meetings, compared to just 43 per cent of Germans who put themselves under this pressure.
So it appears that many business travellers are evolving into mobile “just in time” workers, but is this increasing reliance on last minute preparation affecting their output?
The answer may well be yes because many business travellers’ aspirations of what they can achieve whilst ‘on the go’ are beyond the capabilities of their devices. Despite their prolific use of technology, eight out of ten say they feel restricted by poor internet connectivity (59%), short battery life (56%), poor performance of their devices (51%) and expensive or confusing tariffs (50%).
Security is another concern. Nearly three quarters of those surveyed by HP are concerned about the physical theft of their device, with a similar number worried about cyber security and data loss. Again, while these challenges may initially slowed the adoption of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies in the past, new technology – rolled out specifically for businesses - will ensure security remains just as robust outside the office as it is inside. For example, data on HP devices can be backed up securely using Cloud technology, while lost or stolen devices can be locked remotely.
Business travellers have come to expect the same ease of use, design qualities and performance they experience with consumer technology. They’ve been bringing more consumer devices into their working lives, but these have weaknesses in areas like security, reliability and battery life. This is why the focus of HP commercial product innovation across its Elite portfolio has been on creating products that deliver the best experiences in connectivity to help business people create, consume and share.
The HP ElitePad 900 is a great example of this. It is a true tablet for business that the IT department can endorse for functionality and users will covet for its design and usability. The HP EliteBook Revolve too is designed to change the way business people travel with devices. It can be used as a notebook, tablet, and everything in between. Not only can you twist and fold the notebook’s display into a tablet and back again, the software was made for touch. With a detachable keyboard, the HP Spectre x2 Pro also offers the benefits of an Ultrabook and a tablet in a single, sophisticated hybrid design.
These products are optimised for Windows 8, giving people the intuitive touch-enabled experience they are increasingly looking for. They can also address connectivity challenges thanks to integration with HP Mobile Connect, pay-as-you-go wireless broadband that keeps users connected no matter where they are. Given what we know about the demands of business travellers, we expect these innovations to be really well received.
Can businesses keep up with their workers?
HP’s business traveller survey shows the office is no longer where many workers feel at their most productive. Three quarters actually see journey time as enabling them to catch-up and improve their productivity. A further 56 per cent say they have their best ideas whilst away from the office.
This should be music to the ears of businesses; people, often their key asset, hungry to make more of what used to be dead time. The challenge, however, is equipping workers with the right tools – be it tablets, smartphones, laptops, cloud-based applications, wireless printing capability – and support to get work done on the go.
At HP, we see it as a new era in empowerment where high quality, strong performing mobile devices can be made available to people at all levels in organisations of all sizes. Not so much of the sought after upgrade to business class as business grade mobility going mainstream.
About the author
James Morrish is Chief Technologist for HP UK & Ireland.
(1) HP research into habits and working styles of regular business travellers. See: Business Travellers Rely on ‘Just in Time’ Working
(2) IDC Market Analysis: Worldwide Mobile Worker Population 2011-2015 Forecast