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Guest column: making 'on-the-go' economy work for you

Chris Baker, Concur

Concur MD Chris Baker says an ‘always on’ culture can work for your business

The ability to multi-task and carry out key workplace functions has long been the skill at the heart of any successful business traveller. Today however, people whose jobs take them across various different time zones within a week are even more switched on, thanks to the technology at their disposal. We are increasingly living in the ‘on-the-go-economy’, where people must place multi-tasking at the heart of their everyday lives to make the most of their time.

The rise of the Internet and mobile connectivity have taught us to expect more – of ourselves and others, and even of our use of time itself. This presents a fascinating set of social, cultural and business challenges that all come together to create a form of ‘virtual instanity’. To quote Freddie Mercury, ‘we want it all and we want it now’.

This can be stressful, as there is very little downtime anymore. Business travellers increasingly find that to services such as in-flight wifi they are expected to return emails or even seal deals at 35,000 feet.

In the on-the-go economy, time has a real value, both economically and psychologically. So it makes sense that people want to maximise every moment, from shopping on the go, to even watching a movie on the train. As a result, businesses expect us as employees to be able to manage matters in the moment, wherever we are.

A perfect storm of mobile technology

The ongoing reliance of mobile technology for workplace communications means people feel pressured to be ‘always on’ – particularly business travelers, who are not always in the office to take advantage of face time with bosses and colleagues.

There have been efforts in some parts to actively reduce out-of-work communications, but this isn’t always the answer. Take for example, the busy executive who works in London, often travels to Hong Kong but must be in contact with key clients in San Francisco. They cannot simply shut off their emails and expect people to only be in contact with them from 9 to 5.

While it’s true the ‘always-on’ culture can be bad – creating a pressured environment, where ‘busyness’ is worn as a badge of honour – there are positives too. Take the self-employed and micro-businesses for example, which have long turned an always-on mind-set into a key competitive advantage.

Instead, businesses should ensure their employees are given control, in the same way the executive of a smaller business has more choice over how they spend each moment, to create a more positive psychological environmnent. The ability to do this will become easier, as we see an increase in enterprise apps and a movement beyond mobile cloud technology that will further enable people to work when and from where they want.

Bill Coleman, the CEO of Veritas, once said “the most powerful inflection points in human history have come when new tools were developed to leverage and expand collective intelligence”. He identifies the first point as the creation of language, the second, the invention of the printing press and the third, the arrival of the Internet. I believe that we are moving towards a fourth point, at the centre of which sit new tools and the ability to work how and when we want.

Such a shift and the power new technology offers will drive ever more efficient on-the-go experiences and behaviours for business people – especially business travellers. These innovations will continue to go after key friction points for business travellers. You’ll see more Ubers and more Airbnbs, yielding a ton of efficiency and traveller productivity.

As such, granting travelling employees more control over when and how they work, be that downtime during traditional hours and desk time during usual rest hours, puts the power in their hands and as a result could reap the rewards in the shape of increase productivity.

The future is ‘on-the-go’
 

The on-the-go economy is already here - and it’s here to stay. On-the-go businesses will be powered by live services and technologies that provide us what we need before we even know that we need it. Its vision and the promise it holds for the future is for many people both thrilling and frightening.

For businesses of all sizes and types it comes complete with new opportunities and challenges that will ensure business travellers are as productive as possible.

Read Concur’s Virtual Instanity report

Chris Baker, MD of UK Enterprise, Concur

Chris joined Concur in September 2014. Prior to joining Concur, Baker held a number of senior roles across his 20-year career in enterprise software. These include director of financial services at Microsoft, regional vice-president at Salesforce.com, and senior director at business intelligence firm Qlik.

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