1.3 billion of the world’s workers – nearly two in every five – will be mobile by 2015, research by the International Data Corporation (IDC) suggests.
These changes to global working patterns go far beyond employees working from home. With mobile and internet coverage fast becoming ubiquitous, teams made up of workers spread all over the world are beginning to form and operate without ever being in the same room. Using video conferencing and cloud computing alongside more conventional forms of communication such as email and regular phone calls, businesses can recruit staff and freelancers, connect with funders and hold meetings with clients – all without having to meet in person.
IDC’s data shows that the mobile trend will be particularly strong in the Asia-Pacific region, with the number of smart connected devices such as smartphones, tablets and connected PCs and notebooks soaring from 236 to 766 million. Uptake of mobile technology in the region is rising sharply across manufacturing, healthcare, retail and finance sectors, and government adoption of tablets is set to increase by 85%. By 2015, half of all mobile phones shipped globally will be destined for Asia-Pacific. However, mobile working will gain popularity in every region.
As well as making information accessible offsite, developments in technology that collate and relate information at high speed are changing expectations of workers, wherever they are based. At Proctor & Gamble, manufacturing staff are being replaced with business analysts armed with business intelligence dashboards that enable them to track issues in real time, the Financial Times has reported. With physical workplaces becoming decreasingly relevant and analysis favoured over hands-on skills, workers in the knowledge economy are expected to weather the change far better than manual labourers.
The economist Will Hutton has long warned of the impending marginalisation of unskilled workers and those outside of the knowledge economy. Whilst many entrepreneurs and start-ups are excited by the ways that mobile technology can level the playing field and open up new markets, those hankering after a more traditional way of working risk being left behind. As start-ups and established businesses look for more and more ways to embrace the possibilities of mobile working and cloud-based technology, tomorrow’s workers will need to adapt faster than ever to survive.