Mobility and flexible work arrangements have created a new kind of worker. Although the shift was happening before COVID-19, the pandemic has sped this change to the forefront.
Now that many employees have experienced true mobility – and organizations have had a few months to realize what they need in order to provide remote collaboration and communication experiences – we’ve rounded up a few examples of what this new generation of workers may expect from their workplaces in the near future …
1. To stay connected in ways beyond email.
If workplace communication wasn’t headed down this road already, then COVID-19 likely nudged it in this direction. Many companies that weren’t using networking tools like Teams or Skype began doing so for the first time this year. People who had never conducted a videoconference were suddenly using Zoom or GlobalMeet every day.
These applications are predominantly used on wireless devices. But without reliable wired infrastructure – like fiber and copper cabling – that ultimately connect devices to a network so you can access these services and platforms, accomplishing anything would be nearly impossible.
Cable infrastructure plays a crucial role in wireless networks. If the cable and connectivity used to support these networks aren’t sufficient – or aren’t designed to meet the needs of the devices and people who connect to it – end-users will suffer from downtime, lost productivity and lost revenue.
2. To use new technology to automate and streamline.
Every market is finding new ways to function – both during and after the pandemic. Drones are being considered to transport PPE and detect body temperatures. Robots are being used for monitoring and deliveries. Not only does the use of technology prevent unnecessary physical contact in some situations, but it also frees up workers to take care of higher-level tasks.
As more employees connect online, technology like virtual-reality meetings and augmented reality for training or remote assistance may also be deployed to offer new levels of connectedness among people who can’t actually come together face to face.
All of this impressive technology ultimately relies on cabling to make sure it connects to networks and provides seamless connectivity so people can enjoy the experience instead of being frustrated by it.
3. To be able to monitor systems (or people) from anywhere.
As technology allows us to lock and unlock our front doors, monitor our security cameras and check our refrigerator’s temperature remotely, those same expectations trickle over into the world of work, too.
If people are going into the office less – or interacting less when they’re onsite – they’ll need ways to monitor certain tasks or processes remotely. This will likely become more important as social distancing protocols are enforced, building occupancy levels are controlled and fever detection technology is implemented.
Even in healthcare situations, providers may be looking for ways to monitor patients and their vital signs without having to come in close contact with them multiple times a day.
To make remote monitoring possible, reliable cabling and connectivity will be necessary to transport large amounts of real-time data from sensors and devices back to central systems where it can be accessed anytime via the cloud.
4. To avoid touching things when possible.
Whether it’s a light switch, an Ethernet cable or a doorknob, workers will appreciate technology that reduces how often they have to touch something that others may have touched as well.
Touchless technology, wireless presentation technology, gesture and voice recognition or mobile credentials may be relied on in the future to help workers feel safe when they enter the office.
As these solutions are deployed, their performance will rely on the capabilities of your layer 0: the cabling infrastructure. It takes more than just plugging these systems in to make them function and automate processes – it takes network connectivity and the ability to transfer and share data quickly.
5. To sit where they want when they come into work.
Even before COVID-19 – back in 2015 – IDC had predicted that 75% of the U.S. workforce would be working remotely at some point during the work week by 2020. (How right they were!)
For those who decide to make their primary workspace at home, hoteling or hot desking may become preferred (while following proper cleaning and sanitization measures, of course). It will be less important for people to have a permanent space and more important for them to choose where they sit depending on what they came to the office to do (meet someone in person, print and review documents, participate in extended audio or video calls, sort through mail, etc.).
In these cases, employees may desire the ability to book a desk, cubicle, office or conference room before they arrive onsite. This will not only help control capacity, but also reduce points of physical touch and track who was in the office (and when).
To support hoteling or hot desking, office spaces will need robust wireless networks that can offer excellent coverage for these mobile workers, making sure the cabling infrastructure can keep them connected no matter where they choose to work.
Supporting Technology for a New Generation of Workers
As people return to their workspaces, others will continue to work remotely; technology will need to support this unique mix of workers. Communication methods and tools will be expected to provide real connections between the two groups – without concerns about downtime, delays or disruptions on either side.
Technology like Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 6E and 5G will likely gain momentum. Trouble-free performance for these applications can only be guaranteed when you’re using a high-performance cabling infrastructure (fiber and Category 6A cabling) to support data rates of 10GBASE-T, enhanced capacity and increased bandwidth.
Have questions about what it will take to make sure your network is ready to handle the expectations of this new generation of workers? Contact someone on the Belden team!
Ron joined Belden in 2016 to help define the roadmap of technology and applications in enterprise. Prior to this, he developed cables and connectivity for Panduit and Andrew Corp. Ron Tellas is a subject-matter expert in RF design and Electromagnetic Propagation. He represents Belden in the ISO WG3 committee, TIA TR42 Premises Cabling Standards, IEEE 802.3 Ethernet Working Group and is a committee member of NFPA 70 Code-Making Panel 3. Ron is the inventor of 16 US patents. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University, a Master of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology, and a Master of Business Administration from Purdue University.