Smartphones, tablets, notebooks, cloud computing – the rise in mobile technology in the last ten years or so has been explosive. They are not only seen as a necessity in our personal lives, but have become an office staple. There are some 5 billion mobile phones worldwide, and 1.08 billion of those are smartphones. With 89 percent used consistently throughout the day, for activities such as texting, internet browsing and reading emails, personal communication and connections are instantaneous and everywhere. They are an integral part of modern business life, and these technologies are radically changing the nine to five work day.
In a purely practical sense, offices workers are no longer confined to long rows of desks. They don’t even have to be in an office to work. Laptops, tablets and smartphones make any place a workplace. Work spaces can be more open and collaborative than the stereotypical claustrophobic office environment. Nothing epitomises this more than the prospects of cloud technology. The Cloud creates a central store for information, holding massive amounts of data that can be accessed by any appropriate staff member, at any time, on any device and, essentially, anywhere. This allows greater flexibility in your workers and the prospect of having virtual employees.With employees bringing their own devices into the office, companies must rework their network policies, protocols and security to suitably accommodate everyone’s individual devices, and to ensure that confidentiality and security are still maintained. Devices are now brought into meetings to record and possibly send out vital information in real-time, so businesses must make sure that employees are not unwittingly breaking corporate polices through a forgotten loophole.
Client expectations have also drastically changed. If you have a smartphone in your pocket or a tablet in your briefcase, then it is considered unacceptable for you to respond sluggishly to enquiries or emails. You cannot be unreachable. Clients will assume that that when they need to reach you, you are there and available, ready to respond rapidly. Professionals who respond to client messages within the hour are more likely to win loyalty and to be referred more often, so being mobile and responsive has its rewards.
However, clients’ expectations have their problems. With mobile technology, holidays and weekends are a thing of the past. You might be out of the country or away on family business, but as long as you’ve got a smartphone, you are connected to the office. You will be expected to respond to company business just as much as during the work week, and you can no longer plead ignorance of any sudden developments. After all, you’ll be able to find information and news while on the move.The line that divides home life and your work life is rapidly disappearing. There are no boundaries between your work, your friends, and your family in the information age. Your manager and colleagues will have full access to your Facebook photos, your Twitter feed, your blog, and your LinkedIn profile. There have already been cases of employees being fired over remarks made on social media, forgetting that there is very little that can be hidden on the internet. Offices workers must now remember that they must have a professional ethic at all times, even when interacting outside of the work environment.
Offices no longer rely upon pools of workers; now, mobility, fast turnarounds, collaboration and social media are what businesses ought to have as their corporate policy. Files can be sent anywhere in the world in a matter of seconds. Collaboration between co-workers in real-time can be achieved through the press of a button – no matter where in the world they are – and vital decisions can be made while travelling home.Mobile technology has completely revolutionised the working day, but it does come with a certain lack of autonomy – you’re never completely free of the office. What was once a nine to five working day (you clocked in, you clocked out) now requires that you be available, to a certain extent, at all times.
The end of nine to five should not be mourned however, rather we should embrace the new freedoms afforded to us because of these technologies – being able to occasionally work from home or leave early to pick the kids up from school for example.