Today’s largest and most in-demand segment of employees are operating in a vastly different digital landscape than they would have only ten years ago. The nine-to-five workday has given way to the demands of an always-on lifestyle. And forward-thinking companies are making use of mobility in all its forms to offer their employees the resources they need to work productively, while also striking a better work-life balance than their parents could ever have dreamed of.
Wireless internet and the explosion of WiFi hotspots has had a significant role in driving this transition. Thanks to the affordability and accessibility of WiFi through a variety of devices that most of us already own, the mobile workplace now extends far beyond a hot-desk in another part of the office or an impromptu meeting in the company canteen. People in all sorts of jobs are choosing to work in the unlikeliest of places. And the proprietors of these spaces are starting to realise that, simply by offering affordable internet to their visitors (no matter the size or sector of the business itself), it’s possible to use the thirst for connectivity to improve their bottom line.
The common thread connecting all of these options is WiFi. WiFi’s safety concerns have been largely solved thanks to advances in encryption technology, and although slower than, say, fibre, for most SMEs the speeds achievable over WiFi are more than sufficient for business functions to continue unaffected.
Businesses that rely on foot-traffic for their customer base have already noticed how the option of free WiFi in their venue is appeasing their clientele. It’s a great way to get visitors to stay a little longer than they planned and spend a little more, and it does wonders for a business’s reputation in the community. Here are just a few of the places that the spread of WiFi has enabled to become fully-functioning offices at a moment’s notice, and where you’ll almost invariably find some of these digital nomads, furiously tapping away on a laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
A growing trend worldwide is to simply work from home. With less time, money and energy going towards the morning and afternoon commutes, employees are happier and more productive when not chained to their desks. While South Africa lags behind other countries (where legislation supports the work-from-home revolution), we’re predicting a large surge in the near future, due to the preferences of today’s workforce, as well as tomorrow’s.
Airports and hotels.
Increased globalisation means more business travel, and more travel means hours of wasted time, right? Not necessarily. All major airports and hotels worldwide now boast access to WiFi, many of them free of charge for travelling users. Recent polls of hotel guests show that WiFi is higher up on the list of necessities than even breakfast. With WiFi, the odd delay, extended layovers, and even the plane trip itself (with some airlines currently offering WiFi onboard) are now an opportunity to get through emails and polish up that final report, ready to deliver before you even reach your destination.
Owners of small businesses in the retail sector must often wear many different hats to keep their businesses running. WiFi is making this much easier, by providing the opportunity to merge the shop’s online and offline practices into a single functional workspace. Paying wages, ordering from suppliers, online marketing and content creation – all can be done efficiently wherever WiFi can be found.
Coffee shops and restaurants.
The go-to location for skint entrepreneurs looking to bring their big idea to fruition, coffee shops and restaurants offer an inviting atmosphere away from home when formal office spaces are not available. What’s better than good-quality and affordable WiFi to go with a steaming latté?
Co-working Spaces. A thriving industry has sprung up to cater to the needs of the digital nomad, including co-working and hot-desking spaces offering quality WiFi, desks, stationery, boardrooms, and everything else an entrepreneur could need, without having to rent a pricey office space.
With smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices becoming increasingly common in the workplace, employees are demanding constant mobility in order to be productive. Flexibility of time and location are only set to become more and more common, and the business opportunities provided by something as simple as WiFi cannot be overstated in terms of offering added value, convenience and care to the customer experience.
By Jarryd Chatz