28th Apr 2020
With social distancing as a major weapon in the fight against Covid-19, technology is filling the gap to bring people together. While leaders urge individuals to stay at home, business, government and industry are fast-tracking remote work solutions to stay ahead. 5G is already playing a role in this “work from home” revolution, with availability in cities across the USA, Canada, UK and Japan among others; and many operators reporting that they are just a few months away from launching comprehensive consumer networks.1
In a period of uncertainty, 5G is emerging as an enabler. It’s high speed, low latency connectivity can ensure that colleagues working remotely can access, share and communicate information and resources smoothly and effectively. Mobile operators are not allowing the pandemic to derail the roll-out, aware that use-cases are only multiplying in a post-corona reality. “The coronavirus should not significantly hinder U.S. operators’ next-generation 5G deployment strategies this year and could even spur quicker adoption of future use cases for the mobile technology,” analysts said.2 In one Chinese hospital, they are even exploiting the VR capabilities of 5G to provide quality care to Covid-19 patients remotely, to avoid the time-consuming and costly process of changing protective gear between each patient.3 This combination of technology in the service of healthcare is made possible by 5G.
Covid-19 has disrupted traditional work and leisure practices- ruling out in-person office work, conferences, and even concerts and sports practices to name just a few. In 2018 only around 5.3% of American employees worked primarily from home.4 From early March 2020 major employers such as Twitter and LinkedIn began asking their thousands of employees to work remotely.5 Facebook, Stanford and Google began cancelling public and business events. We don’t know how long social distancing may continue (though one Fed expert has suggested it could be eighteen months6) but it is clear that this period presents an opportunity to those businesses and bodies looking to embrace the potential benefits of 5G expansion. Research reports that 64% of today’s professionals say they could work anywhere, and that the demand for remote work could increase by 30% by 2030 as Generation Z enter the workforce.7 So this is not just a pandemic phenomenon.
Demand for remote working solutions will likely continue and even grow further after the virus abates. In preparation, major U.S. 5G providers are continuing to secure additional bandwidth to ensure that they can meet customer demands for increased data.8 Employees who have been effectively working from home during lockdown may be reluctant to resume their time-consuming commute and return to a distracting workplace.9 Yet employers identify two key challenges to working from home: trust and communication.10 5G can help with both.
The rollout will support workers’ connectivity to the cloud to ensure their presence and communication in video meetings is crystal clear. Companies with more remote employees can pay less for office space and concentrate their resources on cybersecurity and business continuity infrastructure. Here again 5G will be a key enabler as it facilitates the “Edge” – highly complex computing close to users – therefore avoiding the need for a large central data processor. Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools can be used to coordinate and monitor more dynamic and varied workflows. AI analyzes large amounts of data collected by sensors and transmitted via the 5G network – it can solve problems before they even arise and increase productivity in interface with human employees.
As companies work to improve the effectiveness of remote-working tools and use cases during the pandemic and beyond, it will be 5G keeping them lean and relevant in the new normal.
2 “COVID-19 Daily Update: March 26, 2020”, S&P Global. https://www.spglobal.com/en/research-insights/articles/covid-19-daily-update-march-26-2020
4 “Remote Work and Best Practices: The Coronavirus Workplace Series”, Michael Bernick, Forbes, March 16, 2020. https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelbernick/2020/03/16/remote-work-and-best-practices-the-coronavirus-workplace-series/#fbed099769c3
5 “The Workplace In The Time Of Coronavirus (Part I): Legal Guidelines For Navigating The Upheaval”, Michael Bernick, Forbes, March 9, 2020. https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelbernick/2020/03/09/the-workplace-in-the-time-of–coronavirus-part-i-legal-guidelines-for-navigating-the-upheaval/#6d2f73a6f117
6 “America should be ready for 18 months of shutdowns in ‘long, hard road’ ahead, warns the Fed’s Neel Kashkari”, Shawn Langlois, MarketWatch, April 12, 2020. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/america-should-be-ready-for-18-months-of-shutdowns-in-long-hard-road-ahead-warns-the-feds-neel-kashkari-2020-04-12?mod=MW_article_top_stories
7 “With Coronavirus in Mind, Is Your Organization Ready for Remote Work?” Jackie Wiles, Gartner, March 3, 2020. https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/with-coronavirus-in-mind-are-you-ready-for-remote-work/
8 “COVID-19 Daily Update: March 26, 2020”, S&P Global https://www.spglobal.com/en/research-insights/articles/covid-19-daily-update-march-26-2020
9 “Coronavirus: Can We Embrace Remote Working As The Future Of Work?” Jun Wu, Forbes, Mar 3, 2020. https://www.forbes.com/sites/cognitiveworld/2020/03/03/coronavirus-can-we-embrace-remote-working-as-the-future-of-work/#7a0573d34ad5
10 “With Coronavirus in Mind, Is Your Organization Ready for Remote Work?” Jackie Wiles, Gartner, March 3, 2020. https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/with-coronavirus-in-mind-are-you-ready-for-remote-work/