The rise of the digital nomad

New technologies like the bring-your-own-device trend and video collaboration are eroding away the few reasons employees have left to work from a desk.

Video collaboration is increasingly changing workplaces, as advances in technology and the benefits of real-time engagement with dispersed teams are reaping multiple benefits by taking collaboration beyond an office environment. Our appetite for increased connectedness is driving innovators to create new ways to bring us closer together, and these new technologies, such as social business, mobility and cloud-delivered services are the driving forces behind a whole new paradigm for communication that is centered on the power of video collaboration. Today, it's not just about video conferences in office environments; it's about delivering the ability to meet face-to-face in any environment.

This transformation is due in large part to the integration of video collaboration into day-to-day mission-critical business operations such as mobile inspection on the factory floor, crisis response centres in government or video-enabled kiosks in banking. Companies globally, are now seeing the value of video collaboration beyond simple travel savings, to include reducing time-to-market, increasing customer service, improving crisis management, and streamlining decision-making.

Research has shown that video collaboration in enterprises can help reduce time-to-market and sales-related costs by as much as 24 per cent and recruitment times by 19 per cent. At the same time, the generation entering the workforce today, combined with technology advancements are driving a visual mobile society. The proliferation of tablets and smartphones are driving new trends such as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) whereby employees have more choice and flexibility to collaborate the way they want with any device, over any network, and from any location, enabling them to still stay connected to the workplace and colleagues.

Trends such as BYOD and flexible working demonstrate a shift that is seeing more and more people demand the same standards of reliability and usability on their personal devices, as they would on their traditional work-related hardware and software-based applications, and the expectation that they can use devices of their choosing on the company network. The opportunities for companies to take video collaboration beyond the boardroom or traditional work environment by establishing a mobile and more flexible work culture have now multiplied, given the wider choice in devices and platforms and more significantly, a rising need for more flexible working arrangements for a workforce on the move and to accommodate newer workplace structures, such as a surge in freelance and contract workers, and ‘hot-desking’. IDC Research predicts the global mobile worker population is set to reach 1.3 billion by 2015, representing 37.2 per cent of the workforce; in Asia Pacific, this is expected to rise to 40 per cent  – representing nearly 830 million employees.

These collaborations are made all the more meaningful through the adoption of video technology, which does not merely bridge distances, but provides the anytime access, face-to-face, personal interactions which are so important in improving organisational communication and successfully conducting business. This staggering number, plus the ongoing investments in broadband infrastructure, namely the National Broadband Network, which, will provide high-speed, secure broadband access to all Australians, presents enormous potential for governments, private sector organisations and the small-and-medium business sector in the region. These groups have the opportunity to explore the growing trends and cater to an ever-growing generation of digital nomads.

Enterprise Mobility Benefits

Flexible ways of working are becoming increasingly adopted in workplaces resulting in far reaching benefits. These include retaining a better talent pool, more productive and efficient workers through the improvement of employee work-life balance, reduced real estate and operating costs for organisations, an improved continuity of operations and a reduced carbon footprint.

Mobility solutions incorporating enterprise-grade video mean that the face-to-face meeting experience that takes place within a boardroom or office, is no longer compromised when on the move or in a home office. High definition audio and video provide such a lifelike experience, it is as good as being there.

Mobility can also be seen as key to bringing about change and improvements to existing business processes in industries from retail and education, to healthcare and government. In Human Resources functions for example, the deployment of enterprise mobility solutions can make the hiring and training process more efficient, reducing time and cost by conducting interviews over video. Mobile video applications available on smartphones and tablets have made this not just an easily adopted method, but also more accessible outside of an office environment. In manufacturing, stronger collaborations in research and development can significantly reduce time to market, while video could be used even on a production floor for remote inspections and repairs, all resulting in reduced downtime.

The government, education and healthcare sectors can also benefit from adopting enterprise mobility solutions for emergency response for increased public safety, distance-learning for extended reach, and telemedicine for improved patient care. In addition to productivity, research by Regus shows that a flexible working structure has also been credited for spurring greater revenue generation and as a driver of economic growth. A report by Deloitte Access Economics found that teleworking is expected to grow Australia’s annual GDP by $3.2 billion by 2021, and create the equivalent of 25,000 full-time jobs. Furthermore, the same report found that if only 10 per cent of Australian employees were to telework 50 per cent of the time, total annual productivity gains would be in the order of $1.4bn to $1.9bn per year by reducing commute times, office space and staff turnover.

The benefits of enterprise mobility can consequently be summarised to simply mean the ability to do so much more. Be it speaking to different customers in different time zones in the space of one morning, having the time to pick up children from school and attend a meeting in the same afternoon, providing live reports and conducting remote inspections from project sites while conferring with team members at headquarters – mobility solutions easily allow remote workers to be fully participating members of any team collaborations without location ever being a deterrent.

A recent survey by Wainhouse Research of 4,737 end-users has validated that video has gone beyond the meeting room onto notebooks, video-enabled phones, tablets, and smartphones. The results showed over 77 per cent of respondents use their smartphone for business, while half (50 per cent) use their tablet for business.  According to the report, “if your company (or your enterprise customer) is only using video in meeting rooms, there’s work to be done!”

Adopting a Mobility Strategy

Adopting mobility and flexible working in an organisation can now be considered a critical requirement in staying ahead of workplace trends, and indeed the competition. In the modern workplace, mobility and flexibility can be seen as key drivers in retaining talent, and benefiting the organisation overall from resulting boosts in motivation, staff morale, customer service and productivity. Add to this, the savings in real-estate and capital investment by instilling a ‘hot-desking’ policy for employees who prefer to choose where they work from. 

As competition increases and resources shrink, more businesses can reap the benefits and values of a mobile workforce. Enterprise mobility is therefore becoming increasingly important as businesses can leverage advancements in technology for more productive business. With more workers on the move than before, mobility and flexible working solutions can transform the way people work.

Nick Hawkins is Polycom's director for its Asia Pacfic technology consulting group. 

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