Reopening Offices: Considerations for Service Providers
June 10, 2021 - Frank Healy
People and Expectations Change, Not Really Spaces
It’s surprising to see and hear such continued public debate at some high-profile tech houses about whether employees need to be at the office two or three or five days per week. After such a long time for consideration during office shut-downs, it seems that some such companies are having second thoughts about earlier pronouncements. It’s especially surprising since some of these companies have built their successes by making products that are more or less directly involved in flexible working. Whatever way such debates evolve, as the reality of office re-openings creeps, so too will pre-existing employee anxieties relating to everything from commute time to employer encroachment.
Several areas will warrant reconsideration and have implications for communication service providers (CSPs) in their role of helping businesses adjust to this new future, including:
Presence systems (another term for fancy video conferencing) were much debated and even existed over a decade ago. Depending on the application and equipment it could be a superb experience with a real sense that people on the “other end” were “here” in-person and not just on a jittery laptop. 5G’s dramatic improvements to latency could have a truly massive impact here.
Implications for mobility
5G also has implications for the quality of connection whether in-car or on public transport. Companies will increasingly pay for key employees to be connected reliably. Whether it’s for voice calls (voice over new radio) or at-home attendance of training sessions or customer events, or seamless access to buildings: new standards and expectations have been set for secure, reliable communications.
The use of office space itself probably needs to change if not the spaces themselves. Employees now expect more reliable ad-hoc, group-based communications with colleagues on other continents. The flow of information needs to be through more thoroughly connected and shared office space can bring those spaces to life again.
City V’s country planning
More for governmental planning concern perhaps, but with implications for all employees: how widely and rapidly 5G will be made available post-pandemic will have implications for generations to come. Early availability of rich applications well implemented will allow small cities and towns to have genuine opportunities to provide quality-of-life improvements that were hinted at with 4G. With 5G, such locations can provide a diversity of opportunities for new business that were unthinkable a few years ago.
Data’s real-time role
For CSPs the explosion of data from 5G services and how they manage it may be key to their success. Its real-time nature will be essential for previously dreamt-about but now within-reach capabilities like network self-healing and resource auto-scaling. These will make all the difference, albeit seamlessly to busy people on the move again.
A lot of lessons have been learned, some in unlikely places in the past number of months. Who would have thought that sectors like banking would have become advocates of new devices for VR and AR to connect diverse teams to virtual trading floors but companies such as HSBC and Fidelity have been investing heavily.
For some people the “office” was never normal, and any change is part of their daily routine. Clearly not all employees are the same. For service providers the past number of months has shone a light especially on the role that in-field first responders have always had in society and the evolving requirements they still have. Reliable connectivity is one of those requirements. Applications and a reliable ecosystem of partners for future-proofing service complexities are more important than ever in a more diverse 5G context.
IT and communications should make life easier, not more complicated or constrictive for employees. No doubt the conversations about office space and utilisation will rage on. The great news for CSPs is they have an opportunity to ease the pain for employers and employees alike – but participating in those conversations will be what distinguishes great CSPs as well as great employers from the rest.
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