The Mobile Workplace

On a personal note, I would like to start off by taking you down memory lane to a distant time, a time distant enough to make a Commodore 64[1] seem like cutting-edge technology. Life today has changed so much compared to what it was like during my youth. My father worked and my mother was a stay-at-home mom. School pick-ups or emergencies were not a huge concern, as a parent was always there to deal with events as they unfolded. That was their world and that was what worked back then; today, life has changed considerably. It is now the norm for both partners to work full-time just to make ends meet; arguably, living and raising a family has never been more complex and stressful than it is today. My wife and I, like most couples, both work full-time jobs; we live and commute more than an hour away from our respective workplaces via train, and we have an eighteen-month-old in day-care. Attaining some sort balance between our working and home lives can sometimes feel like herding cats.

Now, thanks to the advent of notebooks, tablets, and smartphones, receiving emails 24 hours a day has become just about commonplace. Moreover, immediate delivery comes with the expectation of immediate response; this coupled with a fast-paced home life makes it vital to create a balance between living and working. Consequently, buying in to the mobile workplace, whether you wanted to or not, is no longer an optional extra. Change often tends to be scary and most people have a natural instinct to resist it; a perceived disruption of the status quo is viewed as something to be fought at all costs. However, in this case, as difficult as it might be to imagine from the outset, change is good, change is necessary, and CBC/Radio-Canada's Information Technology (IT) professionals believe that users will embrace it eagerly.

A New Approach

Figure 1 – The Mobile Workplace in Action (Tropical Setting Optional)

Let's face it, the days of an IT department telling everyone how to work and what tools to use are over; workers want to use devices that they are comfortable with and that best suit their needs. Hence why the time has come to take a step forward: work flexibility is the new order.

In the interest of getting the most out of their employees, employers must adapt and provide workers with tools that allow the workers to do what is expected of them whilst simultaneously allowing them to have an active family life. However, it usually is not quite so easy, given ever-shrinking budgets combined with immense pressure on employers to always be doing more with less. Untold time and effort are being expended by companies and consultants to analyse and obtain every ounce of worker efficiency. All of the above raises the question of where that leaves the employee in the grand scheme of things. Workers expect to have the tools necessary to ensure that they can meet their work expectations; however, with greater flexibility comes greater risk to business, and companies are weary of this and are, consequently, sometimes slow to react to change. The benefits, however, should not be ignored.

The question then revolves around what an organisation must do in order to obtain the benefits. CBC/Radio-Canada has already taken a great step forward in that area by implementing hosted email[2] (Gmail), as well as a full suite of Cloud-based applications, including Google Drive, all of which marks a major step into the Cloud for the Corporation. Ultimately, what this really means is that workers are no longer restricted to a single desktop or laptop, they can read email and collaborate on files from any desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone wherever they might happen to be. Meeting rooms are now wherever workers happen to be located. Regardless of whether it is a PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, or Android device, whether it is happening at home, at work, or even abroad, it no longer matters, everything just works.

Figure 2 – The Tools of the Mobile Workplace

In order to make the Mobile Workplace function, there are a few concepts that need to be addressed to fully realise this potential.

IT As A Service (ITAAS): ITAAS is an operational model where IT services are paid for and delivered the same way a commodity would be. IT delivers only the prescribed amount of hardware, software, and support to the lines of business that it needs and to which it has agreed.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)[3]: BYOD is about empowering the workforce. It is meant to free employees from the restrictions that they might encounter in their workplace. The concept involves granting them the freedom of choice to use the tools that best suit them, those with which they are most comfortable and familiar. BYOD has essentially surged forward thanks to the convergence in the quality and capability of business and consumer-grade devices.

At this point, just about anyone can afford a business-grade mobile device that gives him or her the ability to access and use corporate resources. BYOD is the act of an organisation to allow its employees to use their own devices to perform their everyday jobs.

Application Virtualisation (APPVIRT)[4]: APPVIRT works in the same way for an employee's CBC/Radio-Canada applications as Gmail works for their CBC/Radio-Canada email. Apps such as VIP, iNews, and ScheduAll are available to employees regardless of where they might be located and the platform they might be using. Furthermore, switching from device to device is extremely simple; all that an employee has to do is log in with another device and they will find themselves exactly where they were, without any data loss or wasted time.

Mobile Apps[5]: A mobile app is a software application designed specifically to run on smartphones, tablet computers, and other mobile devices. Mobile apps are made available through a corporate application distribution platform in the same way as one would select and download an app from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.

The combination of all these technologies produces a system where employees do not need to be at any specific location to do just about any work task that they would currently perform. One can send and receive email, check one's calendar, attend meetings, and easily access all of one's corporate applications and files. The best part is that the employee is free to choose the schedule and location that suits them best; their work follows them, rather than having things be the other way around. All of this allows the work/life balance to be maximised whilst CBC/Radio-Canada reaps the benefits resulting from greater productivity and collaboration.

The mobile workplace should:

  1. Improve employee productivity, collaboration, creativity, and mobility;
  2. Improve employee job satisfaction, staff retention, and attraction of new talent;
  3. Allow for the quick adoption of new technologies and workflows; and
  4. Require less support and intervention from IT.

Therefore, the next time you find yourself sitting at your desk staring out the window, wishing that you were outside enjoying the fresh air, keep the mobile workplace in mind and the degree of flexibility that it can offer you.


Search highlight tool