I’ve been pondering Deloitte’s recently published 2022 Connectivity & Mobile Trends Survey, which shows the extent to which mobile technologies continue to proliferate across the new workplace. It’s a transformation that, as Apple’s and Jamf’s recent earnings results show benefits the iPhone-an- Mac company.
Deloitte’s data doesn’t directly confirm the importance of Apple devices, but does show the importance of connected devices in the US, where households today own 22 connected devices (down from 25 in 2021). At least some of these devices are likely made by Apple.
Inside the new workplace
The big takeaway in the report is its confirmation that remote work has truly become mainstream. Following years in which management resolutely resisted the idea because of an outdated outlook, Deloitte notes that 45% of surveyed consumers said one or more household members were working from home at least some of the time (down from 55% in 2021). In education, 23% said one or more household members were attending school remotely.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the scene.
“Despite challenges brought on by the pandemic, it also proved to be a unique opportunity for many of us to dive deeper into the digital tools we were already using and accelerate how we apply them,” said Paul Silverglate, vice chair and Deloitte US technology sector leader.
But what should be wind beneath the wings of remote and hybrid working advocates is the discovery that 47% of employed adults said they had worked from home at least some of the time over the last year. And those that have “strongly prefer to have virtual or hybrid options for the future.”
What they like
What do remote workers like? No surprises, really, given this is what every report claims, but employees get a lot of joy out of being able to spend more time with their families and through avoidance of expensive and uncomfortable commutes. They enjoy the chance to remain focused without workplace interruptions, and everyone has been less exposed to all the illnesses that usually plague commuters.
These quite human joys translated into real benefits, Deloitte says, such as eight out of 10 remote workers experiencing better relationships. And just 21% of those who have worked from home in the last year want to return to the old ways of working. Fully 76% prefer remote and hybrid workplaces.
“Companies that simply ignore employee demands for flexible working arrangements may risk losing a competitive edge in attracting and retaining the best workers,” the report said.
This tallies with a recent McKinsey claim that 87% of employees will work from home if given the option, and with a second ADP survey that showed 60% of those working remotely would quit their jobs if forced to return to work full time.
What they need
Security and better internet access are certainly high priorities for remote and hybrid workplaces. Deloitte reports workers have been investing in better internet, including service upgrades and deployment of signal boosting devices, such as Wi-Fi extenders; 44% of consumers invested in Wi-Fi extenders in 2021, the report said.
The importance of security is a message that does seem to be cutting through. More than half of those surveyed were concerned about securing their phones and smart home devices, and there’s growing awareness about data security.
Of course, all these moves have also exposed digital inequity: not every job can be handled remotely and not every remote worker is fully resourced in terms of private working space, devices, and internet access. We’ve also seen a tendency from some managers to indulge in an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach to the achievements of their remote teams.
The time of 5G? It could have been
When it comes to smartphones, Apple’s move to introduce 5G has helped that standard become the third most important feature, just behind battery life and data storage. What’s interesting is that 73% of people using 5G smartphones want a better understanding of what new things they can do with 5G, while 30% are disappointed at what they see as a lack of perceived apps and services.
I’ll add that I’ve heard some whispers that carriers are disappointed in this, too — they had anticipated innovative new usage cases would emerge alongside 5G, and really want that to happen to help evangelize the benefits of the standard, particularly among business customers. Of course, network slicing, SD-WAN, and other forms of private over public enterprise networks should boost carrier mobile offers over time.
A step to digital health
Healthcare also became remote, and while in some nations (the UK) this transition has been a complete disaster, in others it’s been relatively smooth. In the US, 92% of consumers say they’re very or somewhat satisfied with their virtual medical experiences. Apple’s Apple Watch bathes in glory on the news that 70% of those using wearable devices report improvements in their health and fitness.
At least a third of smartphone users are monitoring their health and fitness with their phones, and one in five use meditation or mental wellness apps.
We want our freedom
“Seemingly overnight, the pandemic created a seismic shift in how we use digital tools and technology. While not always seamless, our survey shows that this new, digital-first lifestyle has become more normalized and standardized and is having a positive impact on consumers,” said Jana Arbanas, vice chair forDeloitte LLP and US telecom, media and entertainment sector leader.
In the background, of course, the other side of the future of work will see more adoption of artificial intelligence, robotics, and automation to handle jobs that cannot be done remotely, even while stay-at-home humans equipped with those so-called “soft skills” manage it all.