We are starting 2021… yet we are still in the midst of very turbulent times.
Drastic shifts happened last year. Organisations adopted remote work almost overnight, our home transformed into modular spaces suitable for work, studying and family gatherings, or even as a gym to stay healthy and fit. Most of the digital technology solutions were there, the question was the adoption. As Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, put it:“we’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months”(1). At eConnectivity, we believe in mobile technology helping people to work easier and better. 2020 brought us many learnings how organisations can do things differently. Keep reading if you are interested to hear what predictions we believe in for 2021.
A PWC US Remote work survey (2) from June 2020 shows that more than half of the employees will prefer a hybrid model of work that allows flexibility to work some days from the office and others to stay at home. A survey we’ve done with our team at eConnectivity showed that all of us see a hybrid model as an ideal balance. One thing becomes clear: a 9-to-5 working schedule with a personal desk will not be working for everyone, which will pose new challenges for company leaders. New routines and expectations are a must to draw the line between home and office, and at the same time ensure the effective work of distributed teams. 2021 is the year that will actually show if remote work will work and mobile technology will play a critical part to enable it.
With the arrival of the Covid-19 vaccine, businesses will start working less based-on here and now decisions, but will return to future-outlook and more long-term decisions. With the increase of remote workers in 2021 from 16 to 34% (3), this will be the year that CIO’s will realise that ”good enough” digital workplace and tools are just not enough. The employee experience will be valued just as high as the customer experience. According to the IDC Digital Transformation Predictions (4), 60% of enterprises will invest heavily in digitalising employee experience in 2021.
Today, our offices are no longer linked to an actual place but rather to devices and technologies that we use to collaborate with our colleagues and do our work. The digital tools setup we have at hand is shaping our experience at work. The use of tools like Miro and Zoom soared during the pandemic enabling simple collaboration for distanced teams. However, hundreds of companies are stuck with MS Sharepoint’s constant synchronisation issues. Today, the workforce connects in their anger over the non-functionality of old digital products. In 2021, we need to move on to create more meaningful teamwork in a remote setting. Could tools reinforce the sense of belonging? Or notify us when it’s time to take a break or a walk? Can it be designed in the entire suite of tools we use?
Over the past year we’ve learnt a lot about our preferences and challenges linked to a new work setup. It’s clear that there is a lot for companies to improve to ensure their remote workforce is not only productive but is also satisfied at their job. The innovation mindset and design can help to deliver new personalised digital experiences. It will take more than simply adopting what already is out there. Digital workplace solutions will have a direct impact on employee satisfaction and company readiness in digital technology will be decisive in the war for talent in 2021.
An office creates a sense of belonging for employees, it is a place where company culture is born and can be maintained. For example, a quick coffee conversation often can be the start of great collaborations. While digital collaboration tools (Miro, Mural, MS Teams, Zoom, Airtable, and so many more) have proven that remote work can be as productive, it won’t be enough to maintain company culture and employee engagement when people are no longer in the office.
During the pandemic times we have hired and onboarded our new employees virtually, we have hired employees that are based in other geographical locations. We took advantage of the opportunity to tap into a larger labor market to acquire skills. At the same time, we faced the challenge of making someone feel included without being in the same office space and natural meetings over the coffee machine. The need to find a way to recreate the same experience without having a shared space or without everyone always being in one is higher than ever.
Successful remote work will require us to understand the trade-offs between employee interaction and productivity. In an office, we never jump from one meeting to another without a coffee break and a quick chat with a colleague. Making opportunities for casual employee interactions will be as critical as connecting people around one clear purpose to sustain the company culture. Our team is experimenting with ‘walk and talk’ meetings outside as well as turning a standup both as a place for informal conversations and work updates which seems to bring us closer as a team.
Before employees start returning to the office, companies should start rethinking the purpose their office will serve. With many preferring a mix of remote and office work, companies might use it as an opportunity to downscale their office space or exchange it to co-working space subscriptions instead. We can expect that offices will turn from cubicle islands to social meeting places in 2021.
2020 was supposed to be the year of 5G, it’s only in 2021 when users will start upgrading their phones to 5G ready devices with more affordable devices entering the market and sales estimated to increase from 28 million in 2020 to more than 1.3 billion in 2021 (5). While the phone sales were lower than expected in 2020, the network operators started rolling out the 5G network worldwide. According to GSMA Mobile trends 2021 report (6), 5G network is currently provided by 113 operators in 48 countries, forecasting largest adoption happening in North Americas, 51% of the market by 2025.
Faster bandwidth and lower latency promised by 5G will present many new opportunities for industries such as automotive with self-driving cars, telemedicine in healthcare or interconnected machinery in manufacturing. For remote work, 5G might open up a new form of collaboration through the use of AR/VR technology. Higher speeds would make the experience of virtual interactions more natural when information and graphics are loading instantly. For mobile apps the increased speed and reduced latency will open up new opportunities for connected IoT devices and apps to offer more personalized experiences and services.
While 2021 will not be the year where 5G becomes mainstream, it’s surely the year where the technology availability will lead to increased small scale piloting, establishment of the first 5G business cases. Companies that are set for a device upgrade are likely to adopt 5G ready devices that will lead to testing of the first 5G private networks. 2021 is the year where companies will start seeing benefits of first 5G solutions.
In December 2020, Apple (7) introduced their new App Store privacy labels to increase transparency about their user’s data collection and more changes can be expected in 2021. Now users browsing for apps in the App Store will easily see what data is collected by an app and how their data is used. This, in turn, will require app developers to continuously disclose such information to be able to publish new or update old apps. Gartner predicts that by 2023, 65% of the world’s population will have its personal data covered under modern privacy regulations (8). The laws around privacy will become tougher the upcoming years but it will take time. However, there are several important regulations in the pipeline for 2021. Cross-border data transfer is discussed in the EU agenda, China’s Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL), India’s alternative to GDPR, and stronger position on privacy can be expected from the new administration in the US.
More transparent practices around data collection and providing more choice for consumers will be demanded and business should take responsible actions to remain competitive. Systemic change around privacy regulation will take time but businesses should already today ensure they are collecting data that is needed for their product or service functionality only. We believe that 2021 companies will increase their investment in their data privacy infrastructure.
Verizon’s 2020 data breach report (9) has shown that 80% of hacking-related breaches happen because of stolen or weak credentials. Different tactics are used, like hacking, malware or error but we should also consider the human factor in all of it. For example, implementing practices like multi-factor authentication (MFA) can be an easy and effective way to reduce the risk of attacks, but is it? Single sign-on (SSO) solutions should simplify both user and IT life. But how often did we face the situation where that failed? We spent a large part of our day talking to support, receiving new codes, and eventually just asking a colleague to send over the documents or get someone’s access credentials. Security must be the number one priority. However, when the process is too long or too complicated, people get frustrated and make decisions that may put the company at risk.
Pandemic pushed companies to take quick decisions to enable remote work and keep business operations running. Supporting many employees using devices outside of the organization’s environment surely challenged the IT departments to secure the network. The challenges will continue throughout 2021. Security must be the number one concern for companies and IT should not forget to include design expertise to avoid productivity blockers and reduce security risk. With so much business critical data being exchanged outside of company local networks the number of cyber attacks will continue to increase in 2021, companies need to invest in user-friendly solutions that protect sensitive company and employee data.
Econnectivity is a supplier of high quality Enterprise Mobility services located in Gothenburg, Sweden. Our misson is to make sure our customers realize the business benefits from their investments in Enterprise Mobility
Econnectivity CC AB
411 36 Göteborg