What are we Going to do Without the Water Cooler Gossip…?

Men standing at water cooler in office   Original Filename: 86519105.jpg

By Jason Roos, CEO of Cirrus

Having customers all over the country, I often find myself either on a train, waiting for a train or in a hotel lobby trying to answer a few emails and stay in touch with the office. What I could do when away from my desk was limited to email tasks unless I was connected to a Wi-Fi network somewhere, and even then it was intermittent whether I could actually get anything done. Recently however, I’ve noticed a big change.

Before I get into that, let’s look a little bit about what’s enabled the change.

1st, my mobile. My network wasn’t the 1st with 4G in the UK. They seem to have taken an age to get it rolled out. However they do have a fantastic HSDPA (often referred to as 3.9G) service. Also, having switched recently from an Apple phone to a Samsung, I have noticed a dramatic improvement in connectivity – the Samsung seems to hold onto a signal way better than my iPhone ever did. On HSDPA, I get a reliable 10mbps connection. On 4G, I get 20Mbps, both up and down. 4G is faster than I get from my home provider through ADSL!

2nd, Microsoft RDS (Remote Desktop Services). We recently switched to using RDS which means that as long as I have an internet connection I have all the tools I need, including access to the corporate file storage – no mean feat given the security controls we have in place as an ISO 27001 & PCI DSS Level 1 business.

So, what have I noticed in the last 3 months? It’s probably easiest to demonstrate it by describing a test I did on a three and a half hour train journey recently. The test would consist of me tethering my laptop to my phone and trying to work as if I was in the office, not just doing emails but writing several proposals, updating about a dozen CRM records, making any calls I would otherwise have and completing the board pack for a monthly board meeting. I planned to make a note of how much time I lost on the journey when I couldn’t work on the task I wanted to work on.

Astonishingly, total time lost was 9 minutes. 9 minutes in 3.5 hours! Even more astonishing was that this was while I was travelling at up to 100mph most of the time. At about an hour in, I was sceptical at how well it was going that I decided to do a speed test on my mobile. The surprising result was that I had a solid connection at over 1Mbps in both directions. More than enough to run what I was trying to so. You could even stream music at that rate.

This got me to thinking. If this is possible, what will working be like in 5 years’ time? Will we still have to commute to offices in order to be productive? With video conferencing getting better, we may not even have to be in the same place for collaborative work. The benefits are obvious for workers. No commute means on average 2 hours more personal time per day if you live in London. Even in Wales, the place with the lowest average commute time in the country, it still means an extra hour of personal time back. The only question is, what will we do without the water cooler gossip?