By Howard Baldwin, Contributing Columnist
We’ve shared our perspective about how broadband boosts the potential productivity of continents, countries, and municipalities. But never about how broadband boosts the productivity of individuals. Nor, who gets the most benefit out of broadband — the employee or the employer? As traditional vacation time begins in the northern hemisphere, let’s explore the upside potential.
The most recent Cisco Connected World Technology report, released last year, included two interesting findings. First, despite the downturn in the economy, employees value flexibility of work location more than salary. Second, the borders between professional and private time continue to blur, thanks to mobile connectivity to the internet.
There have also been reports in the past indicating that employees with mobile devices are more likely to extend their day, and thus increase their productivity.
The debate over whether those mobile devices constitute leashes or liberty continues — as evidenced by a New York Times article earlier this year entitled, Who’s The Boss, You or Your Gadget? But I’m willing to come down firmly on the side of liberty. Here’s why.
Freedom from Time and Space Limitations
Early in June, an amazing thing happened. My wife and I met at a rustic resort in a little village on the shore of Lake Erie with the families of two of her graduate school friends. It had been a logistical nightmare of scheduling for not only the core group of friends, but their spouses and their children.
Without broadband, I simply wouldn’t have been able to go. My workload would not have permitted it. While I didn’t have to work anywhere near an eight-hour day, I still needed to work on and submit reports for ongoing projects.
Rather than waving good-bye to my wife, I simply packed up my laptop PC, my broadband wireless antenna, and my cell phone. None of my colleagues had to be the wiser (though I did indicate that I would be relaxing one day at the Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky).
Broadband Everywhere = Productivity Anywhere
I can do this because my mobile broadband service provider offers wireless connectivity at 3G speeds in most places, and 4G speeds in many others. In fact, before I left, I was able to go to its Web site, enter the address of my destination, and see that it had “strong” broadband coverage. The interesting thing about my mobile carrier is that it only promises broadband coverage in major metropolitan areas.
I’m a little confused about how it defines major metro areas, because over the years, I’ve logged in without problem from Vermilion, Ohio (pop. 10,927); Waikoloa, Hawaii (pop. 5,582); and Sedona, Arizona (pop. 10,031). Besides, I did also manage to catch up with my work at both Cleveland and Chicago airports, where I would expect local coverage.
Broadband let me stay connected without being at my desk. It enables me to be in places that I wanted to be. In my work-life balance equation, broadband helps quality-of-life come out ahead.
What does it mean when individuals can be productive anywhere?
It means that we can potentially have more entrepreneurs — in a world where small business is recognized as a key economic engine. It means we have more flexibility for going wherever on the globe our work might take us (whether as proprietor or employee). It means that micro-businesses, of one to ten people, can be more responsive to the needs of their clients. Overall, that simply translates into a more agile economy.