Mobile devices are everywhere – and they’re changing the way we do things, says Matthew Barker, regional manager for sub-Saharan Africa at Aruba Networks.

From the way we work and play, to how we interact with one another, technology is also altering what employees expect from their employers.

This mobile proliferation has bred a new group of people: #GenMobile. This generation expects to have access to resources and information whenever and wherever they need them and to balance their professional and personal lives. For #GenMobile, flexibility and mobility are business as usual.

Not only must employers be able to spot #GenMobile, they need to be able to cater to their mobile needs – empowering a productive workforce and remaining competitive in an ever-changing business environment.

Moving towards mobility

At present, there is a palpable shift towards mobile computing and working ‘on-the-go’. So it’s unsurprising that, according to research carried out by Aruba, which surveyed 5 000+ respondents between the ages of 18 and 35 worldwide, including in South Africa, 62% of respondents now have three or more connected devices, and 57% feel most productive when working from home. Nearly 57% prefer WiFi over other connections, such as 4G, 3G or wired, while 45% believe they work most efficiently before 9am or after 6pm. In South Africa, 54% of respondents use their smartphones or tablets to check work emails and 46% use the same device to carry out mobile shopping. At 80%, this region also has the highest percentage of smartphone owners.

The significance of this change is probably best understood in the context of what #GenMobile is willing to relinquish for mobility. Over half (53%) said they would give up a higher-paying salary in exchange for being able to work from home two to three days a week. This presents a ripe opportunity for employers: by catering to employees’ needs, they may be able to save in staffing costs.

A wireless workplace

While remote working is certainly in demand, the concept of traditional offices and working hours will still exist. The focus on a more flexible work environment is mainly driven by knowledge workers – industries such as financial and professional services are leading the way in this transition. But the likes of healthcare and retail will continue to require more traditional workplaces, for obvious reasons.

So what does this suggest about the workplace of the future? It indicates it will be one in which employees have complete flexibility to access information and collaborate, and where business processes become increasingly automated.

This means employers will need to shift their thinking on the concept of the workplace to not only meet the needs of existing #GenMobile employees, but also to be sure they can attract and retain new talent.

The IT crowd: keeping connections secure

It’s crucial that employers recognise this growing desire for individual flexibility as an opportunity, and not an inconvenience, for their business. Those who offer the conditions sought after by #GenMobile are more likely to attract and retain the best talent. And more importantly, of course, satisfied employees make for productive employees.

The bring your own device (BYOD) trend certainly shows no signs of abating. And while there may be varying degrees of adoption across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, irrespective of the degree to which companies support BYOD initiatives, IT managers must still use tools to gain visibility of which devices and applications are accessing the network. Once a complete view is attained, IT can then establish and enforce policies for corporate- and/or employee-owned devices.

Increasingly, the workforce expects connected mobile devices to infiltrate their working lives. For example, as most of #GenMobile prefers WiFi over any other form of connectivity, employers need to set aside ample budget for making their workplace fully connected for employees – with the security and connections available to facilitate this shift.

Gearing up for #GenMobile

In short, employers need to put ample mobile measures in place for #GenMobile, and soon – or risk scaring away future talent. With flexible and remote working such a top priority, and the traditional ‘productive’ working hours slipping away, organisations need to improve their mobile credentials, and close the #GenMobile gap.