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The workplace of the future fits into your back pocket

Download PDF Take a good look at your desk: all it has on it is a monitor with keyboard and mouse and a telephone or smartphone. Forty years ago, this would have been inconceivable. In those days, you had a stack of paperwork, a pen tray, a landline phone, a typewriter (depending on your job) and an ashtray! Can we expect changes as big as these in the future? What will working be like in the years to come? This article describes a trend in technological development that could make work even simpler than it is today.

Advances in technology have now made it possible to answer an e-mail on a smartphone and make changes in a document on a tablet. For longer, more demanding tasks, however, it's still more comfortable to work with a larger screen, a keyboard and a mouse. So we are carrying many devices with us. But couldn't we do it all with just a single device? Technology companies say we can.

Working with a single device
Microsoft's Continuum is a big step towards working with a single device. Now that smartphones are so powerful, they can do everything a computer does. HP has developed a special new phone for this: the HP Elite x3. This 5.96-inch smartphone emulates the power of a PC and uses Continuum to operate a virtual desktop computer. With this set-up, who needs a tablet or laptop anymore?

Although a single device simplifies work, we’re still faced with a number of challenges for getting it to work everywhere, for instance at the office. One of these challenges is the speed of the internet. More and more apps that we use all the time are located in the cloud. Intel thinks it has found the solution in the form of 5G internet that replaces WiFi or even fibre optic networks.

The need for accessories
A large smartphone has a diagonal measurement of 15 to 17 cm, but this is still a small screen to use for hours of work. This is why we still need a separate monitor to work productively and comfortably over a longer period of time. Besides this, smartphones and tablets still don’t let us work faster or more accurately than a keyboard and mouse, so these accessories will also remain essential. And do we want to have to hunch our neck and shoulders to accommodate working so long with a small screen?

A psychological challenge
Many other companies are also working on a future that will let us be more mobile while working more efficiently. What kind of impact will this have on how we work?

As we head towards using a single device and working more hours outside of conventional working hours, we’re faced with yet another major challenge. We’re already seeing an increase in psychological symptoms caused by not being able to separate our working lives from our private lives. Our days begin and end with work, so stress levels remain high. This leads to a vicious circle of not sleeping well, needing more time to get work done, and experiencing more stress. What we need to reduce stress levels while increasing our work rate and creativity is to build recovery times into our day and move around for three minutes every hour – even if we have only one device in our back pocket.

The future, or is it already available?

This may sound like something far down the road, but it’s actually playing a role in the accessories we use at work today. Three years ago, Microsoft introduced its Surface Pro, a complete PC with the size of a tablet. The Surface products have proven successful and we will be seeing more and more of these powerful tablets replacing laptops.

With Surface and Continuum, Microsoft is aiming at a mobile workplace that fits in your back pocket so that the workplace of the future might again look like the ones we had years ago: with the telephone playing a key role.

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