5G is coming, and its impact should not be underestimated. The benefits of 5G’s high-speed connectivity and low latency go much further than many realize, with it promising to hasten the development of innovations such as autonomous vehicles and virtual healthcare. In fact, the value of the 5G infrastructure market is predicted to grow to $2.86 billion in 2020, and an astonishing $33.72 billion by 2026. While not yet widespread – 5G is currently only available in certain parts of South Korea and the US – it’s vital to be aware of the kind of sweeping impact that’s ahead of us. One of the biggest ways in which 5G will influence our lives will be its accelerative effect on the remote work revolution that is currently underway.
The technology promises to make it easier than ever to work remotely, expanding not only the geographical areas in which people can work from, but also the type of work that can be undertaken remotely.
Let’s explore the main ways in which we can expect the advent of 5G to impact the world of remote work.
Geographical constraints to remote work will diminish
While working remotely is already a widespread, growing trend, its practitioners remain inhibited by slower or non-existent connection speeds while traveling, patchy coffee shop WiFi, or simply by being in a rural area with slow connectivity. With 5G, this will be a thing of the past, and remote workers will be able to stay connected no matter where they are, be it in on a train, in a park, or up a mountain.
This not only goes for being able to log into your email, but also for video conferencing, real-time collaboration, accessing cloud data, and sharing large files. With 5G, remote workers will be able to stay in touch with their team as seamlessly as if they are in the same office, even while thousands of miles apart.
Growing numbers of companies will “go remote” as 5G makes it easier and allows them to get their hands on global talent without the usual geographical restrictions. However, this won’t come without its challenges. These organizations will have to make sure to foster the right remote company culture to help their team members avoid the feelings of isolation that often come with this work setup, and offer competitive benefits to make sure they can hire their desired quality candidates.
Virtual reality will revolutionize remote training and collaboration
Almost hand-in-hand with the advent of 5G comes virtual reality (VR) and the possibilities it brings for remote workforces to be better connected. The VR industry is growing exponentially year-on-year, but 5G could very well be the thing that brings it into the mainstream. With the high speeds and low latency of 5G, VR experiences will be more reliable, accessible, and immersive.
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VR’s applications in the professional domain span wide, especially for training team members and even holding team-building events remotely. Aspects of training that traditionally need to be physically demonstrated in sectors such as healthcare and manufacturing will be possible to complete remotely, as users can experience virtual reality in real-time.
The same goes for meetings and even collaboration exercises. Senior executives will be able to conceivably attend meetings across different cities in a single day in a much more immersive way than video conferencing currently offers. Whole teams of employees will come together and collaborate in real-time on projects on a level that would previously have required them to be physically present.
Productivity will increase, but so will burnout
Remote work has proven to lead to both an increase in productivity and job satisfaction in employees, and with the advent of 5G to facilitate even smoother connectivity and collaboration, it can only be expected that this will increase. Gone will be the days of getting held up by lengthy transfers of data or bad call connections.
However, with increased flexibility and accessibility comes the danger that employees will find it difficult to fully switch off -- a problem we are already witness to, commonly referred to as “burnout.” The risk of remote employees overworking to the point of burnout will grow as 5G makes it easier than ever before to constantly be online. Not to mention, remote employees often feel the pressure to work extra hours anyway, simply due to not being visible in an office.
Companies with remote teams need to be hyper-aware of this danger and regularly check-in with remote employees to make sure they have a good work-life balance, especially once they start making the most of 5G capabilities.
However, not everyone thinks that increased connectivity will directly lead to an increase in people actually being connected. Some argue that 5G will result in such an upsurge in productivity that it could help in ushering in the four day work week. While this holds many potential benefits for employee wellbeing, today’s constantly connected work culture means it would require a complete overhaul of professional expectations as we know them.
So, how far are remote work teams from adoption?
In the US, Verizon has come out on top in the battle to be the first to offer 5G service, with it first launching in Chicago, Minneapolis, New York City, Florida, and Boise, Idaho. With Verizon, if in the right location and with the right device, people can now enjoy 5G speeds.
As 5G is rolled out further, it will still take a while before it’s adopted across every market and mobile device. And of course, additional costs will be involved for those businesses that want to make the most of its capabilities as soon as they can. However, 5G is something that will undoubtedly deliver an impressive ROI, potentially even saving businesses money. Not only will companies have less overhead as their teams become increasingly remote, but enhanced efficiency will ultimately be better for their bottom line.
The remote work phenomenon is well and truly underway. The advent of 5G will simply be a matter of speeding up the trajectory of organizations across the spectrum towards remote work, and deepening its effects on the workforce. However, without careful diligence from those organizations, it cannot be guaranteed that the impact won’t encourage an unhealthy tip in employee work-life balance or increased feelings of isolation. While making the most of 5G will be paramount for any remote company, they must also make sure that they foster a healthy company culture and proactively monitor employee welfare.
Article By Jay Reeder, CEO and Founder of Ninja Number
Jay Reeder is the founder of Ninja Number has more than 23 years of experience in the telecommunications industry. He began creating voicemail systems in high school, which led to his first job as a software developer creating voicemail technology. Within the first year, he had completely rewritten the company’s voicemail software platform and at the age of 20 was selected to lead voicemail development for telecommunications giant ITT.