Though many industries have adopted a distributed workforce, organizations are also concerned that remote employees could be distracted, less productive and less engaged with coworkers. The historic limitations of collaboration technologies, dependency on older wired networks and the insufficient bandwidth of wireless 3G and 4G networks resulted in a notable difference in the feel and performance between the distributed and onsite workforces, some managers have found.
Of the historical limitations that demand resolution in order to create a productive workspace, the most significant are the limitations of 3G/4G and the reliance on inflexible wired networks that prevent real-time collaboration in today's distributed, digital workforce. After all, wireless 3G/4G networks do not have the capacity to cope with all the demands and performance requirements of the modern digital workplace. And without high-speed broadband, the most sophisticated applications cannot even judder along.
With the pending arrival of 5G network capabilities, organizations and employees will immediately feel the freedom these technologies unlock for the distributed workforce. The resulting changes to applications, services and workplace design will subsequently fall like dominoes, creating a workforce renaissance that results in true production parity, agnostic of location.
This renaissance will lead to a revolution where workplace production parity becomes table stakes for industry leaders looking to attract and retain top talent. Those who remain tethered to the wired world will sharply feel the shackles of increasingly expensive office space, a retiring legacy workforce and a stagnation of innovation within their very confining walls. Forget hiring millennials or top graduates. They won't even consider joining a firm with such antiquated practices.
No one will deny collaboration among a dispersed workforce is inherently slower than live interaction. But the limitations to creativity and performance of scheduled, time bound collaboration today’s distributed workforce requires won't be part of a 5G digital workplace. What would be the difference between physically knocking on an office door or rapping via virtual reality if the person on the other side of the door has the same experience? Will doors even exist in the future digital workplace?
New use cases
5G capabilities will power new collaboration use cases for technologies that will unlock real-time collaboration between people and machines. This will result in advancements in augmented reality and VR and achieve the full potential of the digital workplace. Together, this will empower distributed workers to become fully immersed members of their teams, allowing them to interact with teammates, uninhibited by lagging video communications or slow Internet speed. A virtual presence will be as meaningful and significant as a physical presence.
The arrival of 5G and high-speed broadband will empower collaboration between colleagues anywhere, on any device, at any time and put pressure on those organizations that force employees to work traditional hours on-site. (Source: Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash)
Eventually, remote employees will be able to view and interact with a virtual image of a boardroom, break room or other collaborative space, making every setting a fully functioning digital work environment. Regardless of whether they are in a café or home office, as long as a 5G-enabled network is available they will work as though they were physically onsite. They'll have spontaneous, organic, creative interactions as well as traditional scheduled interactions. Like the monumental beating of the Turing Test
by artificial intelligence, the digital workspace of the near future will create true parity between employee production from both physical and virtual employees. The new race will be to see which companies can shed their physical skins fastest and reap the full benefits of the digital workplace.
Like the Wizard of Oz, behind the proverbial red curtain is the network performance of 5G networks. Compare downloading an HD movie: it could take over an hour on a 3G network and several minutes on a 4G network; on a 5G network, it would take fractions of a second. With a network that can upload and download data at that rate, latency issues become an outdated concept and technologies like AR/VR will be fully realized in a brand new way.
It is important to note that while 5G capabilities will arrive at your doorstep, it is up to industry leaders to ensure these benefits are fully realized for individual employees. Reskilling and transforming your internal workforce must occur now. Selecting vendors that have both an understanding of the vision for 5G inside your walls and the technical expertise to help accelerate your transformation is key. Developing clear use cases for partners will be essential to unlocking the full potential of 5G and your digital workplace. It is also important to note that significant changes in regulation and privacy must occur in order to create an ecosystem for applications to thrive and grow.
Without a doubt, 5G will be end the non-productive workspace and sound the arrival of the true digital workplace. Organizations that plan for the wave of change 5G will bring will find themselves in the driver's seat of tomorrow’s digital workplace.
— Don MacLeod, Telecommunications Practice Director, TEKsystems. Follow him on Twitter or LinkedIn.