How technology should enable mobility in the workplace

Research commissioned by Polycom, Inc. shows that in addition to technology advancements, employees are actively shaping the environments of the workplace of the future.

According to the study conducted by Virgin Media Business, China is the most advanced country in allowing and enabling staff to work from any location, on any device (69 per cent), closely followed by the United States (63 per cent). The study also showed that these nations lead the world at 48 per cent of companies in each country – well above the global average of 29 per cent.

So how should technology enable mobility? According to Polycom, technology is a tool that drives mobility within any organisation. In the workplace of the future, collaboration tools need to be accessible to everyone and integrated into daily processes and operations. With that, businesses can remove barriers to productivity and employees can truly develop the digital work habits that drive even greater organisational productivity gains.

At Polycom, for example, all employees are equipped with video collaboration tools such as software installed onto their laptop, applications on mobile and tablet devices and VoIP applications. This will enable audio and video collaboration and communication from employee anywhere, at any time. Designated home workers are also issued dedicated video collaboration devices and VPN appliances so that they can connect securely from home. Moreover, each employee is also given a dedicated virtual meeting room number which enables the individual to arrange a meeting at any time without having to book a physical meeting room.

With the Polycom collaboration tools in place, working teams no longer need to be situated within the same office location for productive work to occur. 

“In Polycom, we have teams with individuals located at different parts of the world and they are still able to collaborate effectively on video. There are no deterrence and teams will join into a virtual meeting room from any device and anywhere. Some of them are based in different offices and some are based at home,” said Chua I-Pin, Managing Director (SEA) of Polycom Asia Pacific Pte Ltd.

“In addition, during collaborative team work, many times we leverage subject matter experts who are not necessary located at the same location. Video collaboration solutions bring these subject matter experts and additional resources “to the field” at the touch of a button– without slowing down the process or increasing travel time and budgets. This also applies to our external team such as our agencies, vendors and these participants can also be brought into our meetings as well.”

Not just about having better technologies 

However, it is not just about having better technologies but a collaborative effort between the organisations, people, government and infrastructure, before true mobility can take place. For Polycom, the Workplace of the Future is not a physical place you go to, to do work. It is about enabling our workforce to be productive and efficient, wherever they may be.

With regards to productivity, Polycom practices a flexi work culture which is enabled by video collaboration technology. Employees are allowed to plan their own work schedules and agree upon flexible working practices with their managers. This means employees aren’t provided a fixed set of flexi work options, rather they can decide on “when, where and how” they work, so long as it is within reason and they are able to meet their KPIs. Thus, their flexi work arrangements often take the form of: flexible hours (not to be confused with staggered hours, which are fixed times) as well as flexible location (office, home, partner location).

As for security, organisations face additional security issues when video conferencing moves from static systems (such as room conference systems) to mobile devices such as laptop or personal computers. While the video software is designed to work securely using media encryption (on audio, video and data packets), the device itself is exposed to risks that static systems do not face, simply because it is mobile and outside of corporate protection.

Central management

Polycom recommends central management of mobile system video applications to help ensure that security configurations are properly set. Without central management of both video configuration and endpoint security, there is no way to predict if a mobile device might be used as a staging point for an attack on the organisation. The Polycom Content Management Application management appliance provides this capability.

Polycom also recommends that 3rd party security software like antivirus, personal firewall, and configuration assurance are installed on the mobile devices. In addition, organisations should have a strategy in place to help ensure automatic updates to the mobile device OS and applications and for performing a remote wipe of sensitive data if the device is lost or stolen.

“When we are talking about workplace of the future, it does not imply that we are eliminating all the physical office spaces.  In addition, we’re also not talking about not having any more face to face meetings. In fact, a certain amount of face to face meetings are still required for relationship building,” says Chua.

With technology, companies are able to reduce the physical meeting, save on costs, without compromising on efficiency and productivity. Management needs to realise that mobility and having an inclusive, flexi work culture will drive productivity, especially when employees can choose to work from home and use their commute time to do more productive work. This in turn can also bring about higher staff morale as work-life flexibility is enhanced.

 Addressing different mindsets regarding remote working

Southeast Asia is a diverse and connected region of more than 600 million people with markets at various levels of maturity. Korea and Japan are examples of countries with excellent broadband infrastructure but the culture of “presence” has impeded the acceptance of new ways of working. Whereas in countries like Indonesia and Philippines, broadband networks are limited and so technology tools such as applications in the cloud, video collaboration, which are broadband intensive are limited. Therefore, you would see more office-centric, environment-centric workplace of the future implementations.

There is, however, changing levels of acceptance across the board because of pertinent issues that matter in the long run, such as the aging population and stagnating productivity levels. 

However, the pickup for remote-working is not as high in Asia as it is in US and UK. The question now is not whether we are equipped to handle collaboration but if we are keen to shift our mind-sets to accept that collaboration can and should take place anywhere, anytime.

“We need to mature into new definitions of work. We need to shift from “presence” to focus on “output”. Doing so isn’t simple. It requires a re-engineering of key performance indicators, training managers how to set goals and measure them, training managers and workers to communicate effectively, putting in place weekly review meetings. Without this change, it would be impossible for productivity to grow much more,” says Chua.