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Prepare for the Future of Work: The growth of mobile technology

Jason Lauritsen by Jason Lauritsen   November 01 2018

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This is the fourth post of my series about preparing your organization for the future of work. In each post, we look at a data-based trend that is or will be disruptive to work as we know it. In the last post, we explored our increasing need for instant gratification.  Today, we dive into the growth and availability of mobile technology.


Future of Work trend #4: The increase in mobile technology

When I was younger, taking family road trips meant listening to the radio, reading books, and playing games to pass the time. Mainly, it meant a lot of boredom.

 

Oh how things have changed.  

 

On a recent road trip with my family, one of my kids played games on a tablet while another watched a movie. The oldest browsed social media. As my wife drove, listening to music streaming to our car speakers wirelessly from her phone, I got some shopping done on Amazon. All while moving down the road at seventy miles per hour.  

 

Mobile connected devices have dramatically impacted on our lives in more ways that we can probably name. A large majority of people now own and use a Smartphone. According to Pew Research data for 2018, 77% of American adults now own a Smartphone. This number has increased from 35% just 7 years ago. When you break the numbers for smartphone ownership down by age, it gets even more interesting.

  • 94% for age 18-29

  • 89% for age 30-49

  • 73% for age 50-64

The younger you are, the more likely it is that you not only own a Smartphone, but that it is your primary device for connecting to the internet. In fact, 28% of 18-29 year olds do not have traditional broadband internet to their residence and instead rely on a smartphone for internet.  


What does the growth of mobile technology mean for organizations?

This trend suggests that in the very near future, almost every employee will own a smartphone or similar connected device. And for many of them, this will be their primary device for accessing the internet. Our phones are becoming an increasingly important part of our lives.

 

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Just yesterday, I heard a woman profess her love of her smartphone. She went so far as to say that she’d have it permanently attached to her hand if she could. That’s pretty extreme, but it’s hard to ignore the impact when you look around any restaurant, coffee shop, or airport to see the majority of people intensely engaged with their phone in some way.

 

As employers, it’s important to recognize how attached and dependent upon this technology people are becoming. If you want to foster a strong relationship with your employees, one of the key pathways to their time and attention is through their phone.

 

How can we prepare for the future of work now?

Mobile technology has already disrupted work and the workplace. Most of us are still trying to catch up. What is potentially more disruptive than the technology itself is the way it’s changing our expectations and behaviors.  

 

The present and future of work will be shaped by mobile connected devices. It’s already happening. Here are a few things you should be considering to catch up and prepare for future disruption.

 

  1. Ensure your online systems and tools are designed for mobile use.

    As smartphones and tablets become the preferred devices of employees, it requires a shift in our thinking and approach to technology tools. Applications that work best on desktop but less so on mobile are less likely to be adopted and used by employees. They will expect easy access to all of their work resources from their smartphone. And, they will expect those tools to work just as effectively on their phone as it does on their laptop.  

    Using the excuse of “data security” for not providing access to tools on mobile won’t cut it anymore in a world where banking can happen in real time through an app. Your tools must work seamlessly on any mobile device.

  2. Create clear expectations about the boundaries and appropriate use of technology.

    Smartphones and other mobile technology free employees to work whenever and wherever they are. While this creates tremendous flexibility and freedom, it also creates the potential for employees to feel compelled to be “always on,” available on-demand at all hours. Work can now permeate our personal lives like never before in ways that are invasive and exhausting. This is already happening and likely to get worse in the future. So, it’s imperative that your organization discuss and set boundaries around how technology should be used and when. This doesn’t necessarily mean more policies, but rather clarifying what appropriate behavior looks like. For example, out of respect for employees’ work life balance, you might set an expectation of leaders and managers that they not send emails to employees between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. each day.

Technology advancements represent a tremendous opportunity for employers, not just to enable more productive work, but also to engage and build relationships with employees. The key is to understand the technology and how it is being used so you can adapt your style and approach to be most valuable and meaningful for your employees.

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Jason Lauritsen
Jason Lauritsen

Jason Lauritsen is a keynote speaker, author, and consultant. He is an employee engagement and workplace culture expert who will challenge you to think differently. A former corporate Human Resources executive, Jason has dedicated his career to helping leaders build organizations that are good for both people and profits. Most recently, he led the research team for Quantum Workplace’s Best Places to Work program where he has studied the employee experience at thousands of companies to understand what the best workplaces in the world do differently than the rest. Jason is the co-author of the book, Social Gravity: Harnessing the Natural Laws of Relationships, and author of his new book, Unlocking High Performance, to be published by Kogan Page in October 2018.

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