Remote working has shot up the agenda for almost every organisation in recent months. With the COVID-19 pandemic not even close to being over, it is clear that businesses which have scrambled to enable staff to work from home in a hurry will now need to put longer-term processes in place. And even as restrictions are lifted and offices are reopened, speculation is mounting that for those workers who have discovered they can carry out their duties from home, the desire for more flexible working practices and greater volumes of home working is going to be considerable.
Clearly, technology plays a crucial role in enabling remote working to take place efficiently, cost-effectively and even enjoyably. Videoconferencing and collaboration tools enable colleagues to communicate, share information and ideas and work together on the same projects no matter where they are located. Meanwhile intranets, cloud-based data storage and systems such as CRMs have long been central to enabling staff to work together across multiple offices.
But the Internet of Things (IoT) is taking remote working into powerful new directions. Here are just some examples of how:
Remote monitoring and maintenance
IoT-enabled sensors and devices can automate myriad different monitoring and measurement processes, from keeping track of the condition or performance of a machine, to following the physical location of an asset. This, in turn, enables workers to access that information without actually having to travel to the equipment in question.
This not only drives great efficiencies in terms of reducing travel time and automatically alerting staff as to when particular tasks should take place; it also enables remote working in disciplines where it was previously impossible. Any job involving physical maintenance, caretaking, tracking or repairing can theoretically be rendered at least partially remote or home-based with the help of IoT technology.
Remote product feedback
Gathering feedback on a product’s performance in situ is critical for many organisations, enabling them to tailor future product development, marketing and customer care according to how their products are actually used. When IoT technologies are embedded in those products, automatically collecting data and transmitting it back to a centralised analytics platform, it can not only make these feedback processes more detailed and efficient, but also enable them to take place remotely.
Enhancing co-working spaces
In the midst of COVID-19 lockdown, it is easy to conflate remote working with home working. But a great deal of remote working actually takes place out of the home – in co-working spaces, hubs and the like. And, as the demand for greater workplace flexibility increases, so it seems likely that such spaces could offer the agility and scalability that employees are increasingly demanding.
In such spaces, IoT-enabled technologies like smart lighting and heating systems, and even coffee and refreshment systems which turn on automatically when staff enter the building, can have a dramatic impact on employee wellbeing and productivity.
The social distancing enforced by the ongoing pandemic has encouraged individuals and organisations alike to reconsider their approaches to remote working, to unpack their preconceptions and even to reshape their future plans. Whilst many workers are undoubtedly missing the sociable and collaborative aspects of working in officers, many too are enjoying the added flexibility and time with their families fostered by greater degrees of home working. The IoT has a vital role to play in enabling the remote working practices of the future to be beneficial for employers and employees alike.