With a growing number of professionals working outside the main office at least some of the time, use of remote working tools has also radically increased across the globe. In fact, a staggering 86 percent of workers have used at least one tool enabling remote working in the previous month. This was one of the many key findings of a research conducted by the world’s largest provider of flexible workspace Regus. The local arm of Regus – Regus Sri Lanka – revealed further information on the increasing mobile phone and Internet subscribers in Sri Lanka and how it has affected remote workers.
Both globally and locally, the needs of the remote workers are on the rise. Offices now provide ‘cloud’ applications which allow workers cost-effective access to office tools wherever they are. Today’s online tools have even helped to overcome one of the key issues associated with remote working – efficient and secure document sharing services. The research indicates that tools such as Dropbox (used by 56 percent of respondents), Google Drive (43 percent) and TeamViewer (25 percent) are widely used by remote workers across the globe. Another challenge remote workers face is risk of getting overlooked when they are not in the office. Instant Messaging tools and VoIP, however, are revolutionizing the way workers communicate and helping remote workers show they are available, connected and immediately responsive. The research found that the most popular VoIP Messaging application is Skype, used by 60 percent of respondents in the previous month, followed by Facebook Messenger (48 percent) and Viber (13 percent).
According to the ‘Key Social Indicators’ given in the 2014 Annual Report of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, there are more mobile phones in Sri Lanka than people (120 for every 100 persons) while Internet penetration is on the rise at 16.4 for every 100 persons. Out of these over 20 million mobile phones, smartphones have continued to show a significant year-on-year rise in numbers. In today’s offices, these powerful smartphones of today allow remote workers to use Instant Messaging and VoIP tools to constantly stay in touch with their offices. Apps such as WhatsApp, Viber and Skype have become the chosen apps for communication due to their user-friendliness and versatility in offering features such as group chats, sharing of photos, videos and other files. Skype on desktop has become the preferred app for conducting voice only and video one-to-one or group chats while Skype’s mobile version even allows video calls on the move in urban and suburban areas due to the availability of high-speed broadband.
Similarly, IT penetration is far greater in the urban and suburban areas where a large majority of the remote workers operate from. Cost-effective, modern broadband technology such as 4G/LTE and Wi-Fi are offered by multiple telecom operators, allowing remote workers speedy, reliable and secure access to office tools that are hosted in the cloud. This allows them easy access to office files in the cloud. They can download, edit and upload large files with minimum hassle from their remote locations.
Other key findings reveal the reach and influence of online tools in the work environment:
WhatsApp is currently by far the most popular Instant Messaging app for smartphones, used by 54 percent of workers once a month or more;
Just 10 percent of those questioned said they had not used an Instant Messaging tool in the past month;
Microsoft Remote Desktop is the most remote desktop globally (19 percent);
11 percent of respondents had used WeChat in the previous month.
What all this means is that today’s remote workers can be fully operative even when they are not in the office. They can save time spent travelling into the office or to and from meetings by working closer to home, thereby boosting productivity and achieving a better work-life balance. A small investment in offering workers access to fully-equipped, professional workspaces closer to their home could help firms achieve this easily.