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August 31

Designing Connectivity into the Modern Workplace

The idea of redesigning the workspace is gaining traction. Company leaders, riding the wave that has much of its roots in the rise of Silicon Valley and organizations like Google and their innovative work environments, are looking for ways to adapt their spaces to the changing ways their employees work.

The drive is catching hold in the business world: in Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends survey from 2016, 79 percent of the executives who responded said design thinking is an important or very important issue. And executives with Sodexo, the global food services and facilities management company with more than 420,000 employees worldwide, said in their 2017 Global Workplace Trends report that redefining the workplace was among the top 10 trends this year, ranking up there with other initiatives around agility, the migration of workers, robotics, Millennials and personal branding.

According to the Sodexo report, the idea of designing a people-centric workspace to improve the employee experience and keep them happy and healthy is fueled not only by a desire to increase worker productivity, but also to help businesses attract and retain top talent. “Becoming a sought-after employer is, in fact, a major benefit to organizations that focus on the employee experience,” the company wrote in the report. “Google has long served as a case study for this—its campuses enjoy legendary status as worker-centric domains while the company itself has gained a reputation as one of the most sought-after employers in the world.”

A modern workplace design needs to take into account a broad range of factors—not only the physical aspects like desks and rooms and organizational structure, but also the tools the employees use to do their jobs, including software, hardware and communications tools. It’s an increasingly mobile workforce that is used to operating in an always-connected online world. As the Sodexo executives said in their report, “with much of the global workforce connecting to the cloud and working from anywhere, workplace design is also reflecting our nomadic desires and abilities.”

Designing workplaces for a mobile workforce

A lot of that mobility and those connections to the cloud comes through the employees’ smartphones. In a survey of 2,000 people Zinwave conducted this summer, cellphones and tablets collectively now rank as the second most widely used electronic communication tool in the workplace—and also the second-fastest growing. And these devices aren’t just being used for voice calls, but also for accessing data through everything from applications and the internet to text messages. Cellphones have become a key way for workers to communicate not only with people outside their company’s walls, but also with co-workers inside. In our survey, almost 63 percent of respondents said they used their cellphones every day to communicate with partners, customers and vendors, and about 57 percent said they used the devices to communicate internally with colleagues.

Those trends will only grow as Millennials and younger generations become an increasingly larger percentage of the workforce. These tech-savvy employees have grown up with cellphones in their hands and much of their lives online. They have become used to constant connectivity in their private lives and expect to have the same capabilities in their workplaces. Employees’ growing use of smartphones and tablets for both communications and data access puts into sharp focus the need for businesses to plan for reliable in-building cellular connectivity when designing a modern workplace that puts the worker experience at the forefront.

That will mean providing strong, constant indoor cellular signals that support multiple frequencies and wireless operators, and are technology-agnostic. This will not only will drive employee productivity and give businesses a leg up over their competitors in attracting and keeping talented workers, but it also will enable them to embrace emerging technologies like the Internet of Things (IOT), machine-to-machine communications and location-based services as they come into the mainstream. The idea behind the trend to redesign the workplace is to create a place that has the health, happiness and wellness of the employee in mind, thereby fostering greater productivity; a working environment that takes into account not only their lives at work but also their lives outside of it. The lines between work lives and personal lives are blurring, and workplace designs are taking that into account.

Amenities mean little if employees can’t use preferred tools

But many of the amenities that are highlighted when talking about new designs for today’s workspaces—from open collaborative space and circadian lighting to lounge spaces, communal areas, easier ways to move around the office—make consistent wireless connectivity a must have and will mean little if workers become frustrated because of spotty cellular coverage inside the building. And as we have found in previous surveys, employees do get frustrated, and they put the responsibility for strong indoor signals on their employers.

The growing numbers of today’s workers have been using technology seemingly since the time they could walk. They live online, on the internet and in social environments, and they do most of it through their smartphones. And when they come to work, they’re increasingly using these devices to talk with co-workers and customers, partners and vendors, and to access data and applications to get work done. They expect to have cellular connectivity in their workplaces that is reliable and constant. They require it. As company leaders look to redesign these workplaces to make their employees happier and more productive, ensuring that connectivity should be a key consideration.

Employees expect a reliable cellular connection at their workplace, and they are beginning to blame their employers—not their cellular carrier—when they don’t get one. Learn more in our Cellular in the Workplace Survey.

 

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