By Reagan Nickl
Director of Partner and Customer Success
SpaceIQ

More people than ever before work remotely—especially amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether part-time or full-time, the bump in workers who telecommute has grown rapidly, up 44% in the last five years and 91% over the last decade. It’s reasonable to think about the future of telecommuting. As more people join the remote workforce, how will it change?

Technology is the first aspect to look consider. After all, what is telecommuting without the technologies that make it possible? As more people trade in their workstations for laptops and their office desks for coworking seats, technology will grow to support them. Apps like Slack and Zoom are already proof of support for decentralized teams, and the business cloud gets more refined by the year.

Here’s a look at three technologies with a strong stake in the future of telecommuting, and how they’ll pave the way for an even more productive remote workforce.

1. Virtual reality meetings

Video chat is one of the most useful technologies for remote workers today. The ability to hop on a chat with another person or group of people makes up for the inability to congregate around a conference table. Video fills the visual void of instant messaging or phone calls.

What even the best video chat lacks is the tangibility of an in-person meeting. You can’t reach out and point at something on a projection screen or handle the prototype of a new product you’re launching. Video has its limits, which is where virtual reality (VR) comes in.

Imagine a VR meeting that mimics the conference room at your office. You can turn your head and see the people next to you, and enjoy the spatial awareness of three-dimensional space beyond a flat computer screen. You can point at Reggie to emphasize his numbers in the quarterly sales report or pass a virtual model of the product to Jan so she can look it over. Then, when the meeting’s done, you take off your glasses and you’re back in the coffee shop or coworking space you started in—no movement required.

Thanks to technologies like Facebook’s Oculus or HTC’s Vive, this technology is closer than most people realize. Facebook’s virtual meeting division—called Facebook Spaces—is already open in beta, with some exciting features and capabilities. It’s focused more on social and education settings, primed for a port over to the business community.

2. Cloud-based applications

Chief among telecommuting benefits is the ability to work where and when it’s most comfortable for you. But this benefit is immediately ified without access to the apps and software that make your job possible. Thankfully, we’ve moved past workstation-specific programs and isolated enterprise software.

Consider a graphic designer who uses the Adobe Suite of products. Not only is this software costly to license, it’s configured with plugins, default settings, and other company-specific customizations. Without direct access to these programs and their configurations, remote employees face significant work hurdles. It’s why companies like Adobe have ported their apps and systems to the cloud. The Adobe Creative Cloud, Microsoft Office 365, Salesforce Service Cloud, and dozens of others represent a significant shift to Software as a Service (SaaS), delivered via the cloud.

In the future, we’ll continue to see software operate from the cloud, with more robust integrations made with telecommuters in-mind. Whether they log in remotely from their laptop, an in-house workstation, or a tablet from halfway around the world, employees won’t face obstacles in their ability to work.

3. 5G and edge computing

We’re soon to see some great advances for telecommuting on the side of infrastructure. 5G and edge computing are common tech buzzwords, but they come with real connotations. Namely, the advantages of telecommuting are about to get a whole lot better.

5G is soon to be the new standard for wireless communication. It delivers data at low latency, and can handle more complex data streams without packet loss. For remote workers, it means faster, more secure access to the business cloud and everything on it.

Edge computing is the second half of the equation. It involves the storage of distributed data closer to the end user, across multiple servers and even local devices. Not only does edge computing speed digital data transfer, it also safeguards interactions. If a server goes down, you’re not barred from accessing the data that was on it—you’ll get it from a different server, even if it’s further away.

5G and edge computing add up to freedom for telecommuters. They’re soon to be the new pillars for everything from communication to data sharing—all done quicker, with better security and reliability.

New and innovative ways to work

The technologies outlined above don’t just make it easier to work remotely, they’ll also change the way telecommuters do their jobs. Imagine jumping into virtual reality to conduct a board room meeting or accessing a huge file in seconds to make changes someone else can see in real time. These scenarios won’t only be possible, they’ll be common in the remote workplace of the future—wherever that might be for telecommuting employees.

Keep reading: Boost Team Collaboration with 10 Remote Working Tools