Is the time right for all-wireless offices?

As the modern workforce has become more mobile, businesses have started to rely more and more on wireless networks, with many questioning whether the traditional Ethernet connection has become outdated.

One of the talks I attended at SpiceWorld 2016 earlier this week - led by Brett Martin, systems engineer at Cisco - discussed the idea of the 'all-wireless office,' using Cisco as an example.

Today's knowledge workers “work in a slightly different way from our parents, we’re much more mobile,” he said, with employees frequently moving around the office to different locations. “This has made wireless far more critical and we’re far more reliable on it than we ever have been.”

This led to Cisco's Connected Workspace project - removing allocated desks and offices in favour of hot-desks and smaller meeting spaces to support its mobile and distributed workforce. The result has been "a 30 per cent reduction in floor space per person," increased productivity and a saving of $2.5k saving per employee per year.

There are, of course, always challenges with adopting a wireless approach. You've got to think about the management of the networks, the complexity of deploying real time applications that use voice and video, as well as the higher user density that comes with having more employees in the same space with multiple devices each. Employees expectations are also higher - “people expect wireless everywhere” - so will not stand for availability, reliability or performance issues.

The key question to ask yourself, Brett said, is whether you want an all-wireless office or an all-wireless user experience. Do you want no wires at all, or the capacity to untether your employees so they are able to work in the way that best suits them?

Ultimately, getting rid of Ethernet entirely is probably not a realistic goal at this stage, so focusing on aiding collaboration and providing the best of both worlds for your staff should be enough to keep everyone happy.

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