How the IoT could change businesses and home offices30th April 2015
Working from home is becoming an increasingly popular choice for many. Indeed, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that in the first quarter of 2014, 4.2 million people had taken up this option.
This works out to 13.9 per cent of the UK workforce – the highest proportion on record. It's therefore clear that a growing number of Britons believe this is the way forward, while more and more employers clearly think the same.
The reasons for this are clear. Technology has advanced to the point where we no longer have to be tied to a particular desk in a particular location. With high-speed broadband and Wi-Fi, as well as the fact that many applications and documents can be accessed via the cloud, we can do anything we'd do at our desk from anywhere that has a decent internet connection.
It's ideal for those of us who feel we're struggling to obtain a decent work-life balance. After all, it means we can avoid an arduous commute to and from the office. We're better placed to juggle outside responsibilities, such as having to pick the kids up from school, with our jobs. And we might even be more productive away from the distractions of the office.
Interestingly though, the ONS data showed that nearly two-thirds of those who work from home are self-employed. This could suggest that many employers still need persuading of the benefits of this approach. But if allowing homeworking makes employees more productive and motivated, then surely everyone benefits don't they?
Perhaps further technological innovations will encourage those bosses who have resisted allowing staff to work from home to change their minds. For instance, the Internet of Things (IoD) looks set to be a development capable of transforming how we live and work.
This could be particularly true for those who work from home, as their house could be populated with web-enabled devices that act intelligently and save them large sums of money in the process.
As David Wong, a visual designer at Group SJR, has noted: "The Internet of Things isn't limited to kitchen appliances like coffee pots that turn on automatically when you wake up and brew you a fresh pot.
"Rather, IoT is transforming the workplace, reducing operating costs, saving electricity and possibly even building new revenue streams."
For example, Mr Wong pointed out that more IoT devices can generate more data and analytics on every aspect of a business. These insights could then be used to determine an organisation's future strategy and enhance the customer experience considerably. But the IoT could even transform more mundane facets of a homeworker's life.
"When the printer is running low on ink, it will order more on its own – and when a smart machine isn't working properly, you'll be notified," Mr Wong remarked.
"Lights and thermostats operate autonomously to save on energy costs, turning off automatically when everyone leaves at the end of the day."
As we've pointed out, not every company has fully backed the idea of working from home, much to the annoyance of organisations like the Trades Union Congress (TUC).
In fact, the TUC's general secretary Frances O'Grady recently suggested that too many bosses "still don't trust staff to work from home and instead force them to trudge into the office so they can keep an eye on them".
However, the move of technology like IoT into the mainstream might possibly encourage more employers to try out this approach. After all, they could see a huge surge in productivity, job satisfaction and maybe even employee retention rates.
More than ever before, keeping staff happy needs to be a priority for bosses if they want to keep hold of the best people. So giving them the flexibility to work remotely could be the move that prompts top talent to stick around rather than look elsewhere. The IoT looks set to make homeworking even more practical and affordable, so it'll be interesting to see the effect it has on homeworking statistics in the future.