Sean Lowry, Chief Technology Officer at Glide, explains how WiFi6 can help organisations to foster a collaborative working environment, despite staff regularly being split between the office and home.
As we continue to recover from COVID-19 and the resulting lockdown, the world is shifting from a ‘remote working’ setup to ‘Hybrid working’. For many, this simply means “working from home and occasionally in the office.” But could this also be the definition for something that promises to revolutionise our working practices?
The popular perception is that from now on, companies will offer more flexible working conditions and staff will be encouraged to work from home whenever they please. The reality is that from a business perspective, progress often depends on collaboration. For many, this flows more naturally in a buoyant environment, or in other words, the office. Organisations will no doubt feel a moral obligation to create flexibility, but for how long? What if that same sense of purpose went into creating a workplace designed to bring people together, a destination that employees want to visit and a safe and comfortable, yet professional environment?
With hybrid working, the office becomes bigger than its physical premises. It combines the best of both worlds – access to office facilities while offering the flexibility of remote working.
In recent months, we have experienced an overwhelming dependency on broadband. Reliable, ultrafast broadband is essential for the agile working patterns of the future. Technology will be a key enabler for driving change in our workplaces, particularly for space management, environment management and collaboration in the cloud. All three of these are key features of the most progressive places to work and all are powered by the latest Wi-Fi technology.
A boost in productivity
Businesses need to achieve maximum efficiency. It’s essential that all team members can communicate with clients and access any files or software they need – wherever they’re working from.
Quality, uninterrupted video conferencing means that client relationships can still be nurtured, team collaborations can continue to function effectively and meetings can be held remotely without any concern. With the excellent connectivity that Wi-Fi6 enables, hybrid working can foster a similar level of collaboration with companies and clients as an office environment.
Even before the pandemic, 40% of UK businesses were using cloud-based solutions. When connected to ultrafast broadband, the cloud offers the agility needed for organisations to optimise their products and customer service.
For optimum cloud services, optimum connectivity is also needed. This can be obtained from the latest in Wi-Fi6 technology. For the first time, multi-gig Wi-Fi speeds and never-seen-before performance are available for UK businesses, with everything connected by the latest Wi-Fi6 technology.
As businesses move away from the legacy of shared drives, we can expect to see organisations working entirely through the cloud within the next decade. In the cloud, employees suddenly have access to version control, encrypted data and repair and restore protection.
Downloading and uploading large files within a reasonable timeframe requires a bandwidth of at least 50Mbps. It is essential that workers can use the cloud to access and collaborate across large shared files. Cloud storage and collaboration allows people from around the world to come together to work on tasks, enabling global collaboration and decentralising the concentration of skills in certain industries. Put simply, cloud technology powered by ultrafast broadband means businesses can go global.
Transforming the physical office
Wi-Fi6 offers the opportunity for creative new workplace experiences with minimal disruption, and its infrastructure can be configured off-site with minimal disruption on-site.
World-class Wi-Fi enables the deployment of world-class technologies such as location-based services. With a range of features such as proximity reporting, staff tracking and amenity traffic reporting, location-based services are playing an essential role in the maintenance and enjoyment of a safe working environment.
With this level of insight, operations teams can track the occupancy of a building with ease. It also allows employees to feel safe in their working environment. Furthermore, by better utilising this data, businesses can enable a more flexible workforce, offering more visibility over ad hoc office visits from employees.
According to BitPipe’s ‘The Intelligent Workplace’ report, activity-based working environments are the future. Offices are being redesigned to incorporate more hot desks and collaborative spaces. These spaces need to be ‘booked’ and the introduction of location-aware services offers employees the flexibility to extract maximum efficiency from their surroundings.
With more collaborative working, more devices will inevitably be using the network, which is why ultrafast, reliable internet is essential. For example: under a hybrid working model, video conferencing will become the norm for in-office meetings. In turn, many more devices will be competing for bandwidth. The office internet needs resilience to uphold this extra usage.
For businesses looking for a portfolio of new office space appropriate for hybrid working, Wi-Fi6 can be quickly and easily deployed across multiple locations. It also means that businesses can become more flexible.
The office as a destination
Many employees will have been using smart devices to optimise their home working environment, and will now expect it at the office. According to research papers such as the Stoddart Review, an improvement in the working environment could deliver a productivity boost of between 1-3.5%.
Some businesses have already initiated a shift in smart office environments. Amsterdam’s iconic building, The EDGE, allows tenants to use a smart app for workplace customisation, thus giving employees the ability to improve individual working environments. Of course, smart environments such as this need optimum connectivity as offered by Wi-Fi6.
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It is important to state that the office is not ‘dead,’ it is simply changing. Underpinning all of these changes is the need for ultrafast, reliable Wi-Fi. The hybrid working revolution creates opportunities for new products and the latest wireless technology Wi-Fi6 (and the upcoming Wi-Fi6e), which incorporates many of the same advantages as 5G but at a more local level, and provides a step-change in capability. Wi-Fi6 will become the mechanism to support low-power IoT devices across facilities, creating an explosion in the volume and types of data that can be collected. Furthermore, Wi-Fi6 offers the speeds that make wired ethernet networks redundant – the “wireless office” has truly arrived.