The rollout of 5G, the fifth generation of wireless technology networks, promises major advancements not only to our personal lives with tech like wearables, but also to many business sectors, including autonomous shipping and transportation, smart cities and the entire workforce.
The 5G conversation often leads us to think about new applications for the Internet of Things (IoT), whether it’s consumer gadgets, smart refrigerators, enterprise businesses, AI-powered analytics or personal digital assistants. However, there is another side to this ultra-fast and powerful network that can open up new economic opportunities for cities, organizations and the individual worker. 5G has the potential to transform our rapidly-changing workforce by enabling near-universal employee inclusivity, increased engagement and heightened business efficiencies.
5G is poised to leave a lasting impact on the workforce as a whole, but perhaps most notably, it will democratize hiring opportunities for companies based outside of major tech hubs, and empower frontline workers, who are often left out of the corporate culture.
Cities without top-of-the-line tech infrastructure
Not all cities are created equal, at least from a communications infrastructure and connectivity standpoint. Major tech and innovation hubs like Silicon Valley, New York and Boston are able to accommodate a wealth of workers and companies because they were built with a modern IT and network infrastructure.
5G has the potential to rapidly update the internet “infrastructure” of any city by delivering immediate access to faster data speeds, more bandwidth and consistently reliable connections. This empowers companies to expand their footprint across more markets, recruit talent effectively anywhere, while providing more flexible work options for employees.
The (evolving) labor market
In addition to driving economic development and opening up new cities as potential corporate hubs for leading organizations, 5G will further accelerate the workforce’s move away from the traditional 9-to-5 work day.
The “employ me” generation, categorized as those who prefer to work where and when they feel the most productive, is reaching critical mass in the workforce at a rapid rate. Our data shows that 89 percent of workers say flexible working should be how we work, not simply a benefit. With the technical ability to work from a location of their choice, companies empower their employees with the flexibility they seek, and in turn, can make tangible improvements to employee engagement and business efficiency, resulting in higher rates of productivity and employee retention.
This is great news for executives looking to boost their bottom line, but it also dramatically expands the pool of potential new employees. Organizations can now look to hire the best worker – regardless of where they are based – instead of the worker that is based in their headquarter’s city or trying to drive top talent towards urban areas.
Workers on the front line
Beyond democratizing cities, 5G has the power to democratize opportunities for workers of all backgrounds and industries. When adopting new 5G-powered applications, company leaders should not only focus on the potential business impact, but also on how the tech will affect their culture. For companies with frontline workers, those who deal directly with customers or are directly involved in making a product, a major challenge is keeping those employees engaged and connected to the larger organization.
For example, the trucking industry deals with a high level of turnover due to challenges with communication as the drivers make cross-country trips. For these distributed workers, 5G combined with communications technology opens the door for a stronger connection to the company while also allowing for richer communication and collaboration amongst their peers and their base office. These new opportunities have historically not been possible with the legacy tools and processes used by most companies today.
For other frontline workers dealing directly with customers, patients or vendors, 5G’s reliable connectivity ensures that workers can connect to their partner network while on-the-go. Instead of being chained to a desk, or only able to work in optimal locations, workers are enabled to better utilize smartphones and tablets to accomplish the same work that is traditionally done on a laptop or desktop computer, at the “speed of reaction.”
Like most of the industries it will support, 5G is focused on working better, faster and smarter. It won’t only provide technical improvements like greater reliability and lower latency; it has the potential to have a much larger workforce-wide impact. As we think about the next wave of our economy and the future of work, 5G represents a technological milestone on par with AI and IoT in terms of its impact on the way we empower the next generation of digital workers.
Eric Hanson, VP of Market Intelligence at Fuze