Using 5G to Empower Employees in a Remote Workforce

Whatever the job, wherever they work, 5G can empower employees.

Every business is unique but all share one thing: employees are their greatest asset. Organizations must use their people power wisely and efficiently if they're going to thrive.

5G has a role in helping businesses attract and retain talent—and empower their employees to be successful wherever they work. Today’s employees demand the most up-to-date technology and tools, or else they may seek employers that can provide them.

“When the forces of network connectivity and human intelligence are combined, we get deeper insights and can act on them faster,” says Jeff Holzinger, Senior Director – National Development at T-Mobile. “That creates a better and smarter workforce.”

5G connectivity—widely-available public 5G networks and private 5G networks deployed within factories, office buildings, and other facilities—offers many ways to support and empower employees.

A T-Mobile for Business survey of 200 IT and network decision-makers who are adopting 5G reveals some of the ways it does that. According to the survey, 67 percent of respondents said their organizations are using 5G to automate processes, everything from product lines to predictive maintenance. Simply put, “it increases employees’ efficiency,” one survey respondent commented, sounding a common theme.

Supporting a remote workforce.

5G helps businesses adapt to the tectonic shifts underway in organizational functions and office policies. Many businesses responded to the Covid pandemic by quickly transitioning to a remote workforce. Now, employees want that work-anywhere option to continue. When offered, 87 percent of employees said they would take the opportunity to work remotely, according to a McKinsey study. “There has been a major shift in the working world and in society itself,” the report notes.

“5G is what's going to enable the connectivity that's needed in a highly remote workforce. It's a critical part of the toolbelt.”

Jeff Holzinger, Sr. Director - National Development at T-Mobile

The work-from-anywhere (WFX) approach requires fast and flexible networking that allows real-time communications and collaboration. Many businesses learned that a remote workforce can be just as competitive and flexible as an office-bound group—but only if employees are equipped with the bandwidth and responsive tools that make physical proximity less necessary.

5G Business Internet—also known as 5G fixed wireless access—enables this kind of employee mobility in industries from manufacturing to healthcare, allowing workers to be effective even when they are away from office locations. The key to success is to ensure that the WFX organizational structure includes the collaboration tools and fast connections that staffers need to prosper. With 5G, decentralized teams can retrieve data and digital assets in fractions of a second from just about anywhere.

Businesses can enjoy significant benefits from this remote enablement, including the ability to recruit and train talented people wherever they are located. That’s huge. In today’s competitive labor market, businesses must compete for the best and the brightest across geographies. 

“5G is what’s going to enable the connectivity that’s needed in a highly remote workforce,” said Holzinger. “It’s a critical part of the toolbelt.”

That includes remote training, essential for onboarding, skills development, and employee retention. In T-Mobile’s survey of IT and network decision-makers adopting 5G, 23 percent use it for virtual learning and 21 percent for remote training.

Remote assistance with AR.

One of the most promising ways to improve the employee experience is to pair 5G’s advanced networking capabilities with augmented reality (AR) technologies. In the T-Mobile for Business survey, 26 percent of respondents use 5G for AR, and 39 percent plan to use the two technologies together in the next year.

New hires might use an AR solution to connect to a knowledge database or engage remote experts for assistance. Or workers could use ruggedized tablets or AR glasses to perform guided tasks using an instructional virtual overlay.

Organizations that use 5G-enabled AR training have reported greater success getting parts installed correctly, fewer errors and discrepancies, and annual savings of up to 20 percent as a result of less scrapping of material due to mistakes.

Let’s say a manufacturer has complex machinery on the factory floor but a shortage of experienced workers. In this all-too-common situation, 5G and AR can be combined to provide training. For instance, 3D models and 2D drawings can be downloaded in the field in fractions of a second with 5G connectivity. 

Another potential scenario: lightweight AR glasses that enable frontline technicians on an aircraft assembly line to view service checklists and perform complex tasks, exploring electrical wiring in immersive 3D from all angles. 

In an age of accelerated change, businesses must find ways to get support technicians trained and able to troubleshoot as quickly as possible. 5G-powered immersive learning can fast-track this process. Field assistance using AR glasses allows trainees to view information overlays and spot a problem. It’s like having a wise veteran employee at their shoulder, guiding them toward excellence.

In addition to faster training of new technicians, organizations that use 5G-enabled AR training have reported greater success getting parts installed correctly, fewer errors and discrepancies, and annual savings of up to 20% as a result of less scrapping of material due to mistakes.

Boosting productivity through employee safety.

Wherever employees are doing their jobs, safety is an easy sell when it comes to ways 5G can help create a better employee experience. Particularly for physically active work, accident and injury prevention are paramount—and in case an employee may need help, the faster the response the better. 

Worker safety gear equipped with sensors can warn of dangerous gas emissions or hazardous humidity levels, barometric pressures, or temperatures. Some can also monitor the position of people, vehicles, or moving assets, and trigger alerts to avoid collisions.  

“Site safety is mission critical for any manufacturing and construction site,” Holzinger says. “It should always be a top concern.” Not only do worker safety initiatives positively impact productivity and workflow, but they also help establish a corporate culture where employees feel valued.

5G’s bandwidth also makes it possible to use video surveillance with computer vision, an AI-based technology that allows computers to monitor digital imagery and raise alerts for potentially dangerous situations. For example, construction companies can set up cameras around job sites or attach them to vehicles or other equipment. This can help spot problems like incorrectly stacked pallets, fuel leaks, or reactive chemicals stored too close together. Meanwhile, 5G-enabled drones can be used to assess site safety and flag hazards such as unstable terrain, wildlife, or trespassers.

The ability to connect a greater variety of sensor-based devices with 5G also has implications for the gear workers wear, like connected hard hats that can share geolocation and biometric data, as well as audio and video communications. Protective headwear can be equipped with environmental sensors that detect noise, gas, temperature, pressure, and fall detection to prevent injury and ensure worker safety.

How 5G addresses remote challenges.

A remote workforce can present various challenges. Data security is one of them. While many people use existing Wi-Fi for Internet access, “Wi-Fi is not the most secure network out there,” Holzinger says. With 5G fixed wireless access, remote work happens in a more secure environment, adds Holzinger, because “it’s harder to penetrate a cellular, licensed-spectrum network.”

Another potential issue is the occasional need for in-person interaction with coworkers or clients. Here 5G-enabled telepresence may be the answer. Holographic video calls, an emerging technology, provide an intuitive way to communicate using 3D images that approximate physical presence. 

For instance, startups like Omnivor, which participated in the 5G Open Innovation Lab, are developing and testing 5G-enabled holographic telepresence for use in next-generation video calls using our T-Mobile 5G network. We demonstrated Omnivor’s technology during an all-hands team meeting in which the 3D avatars of two speakers interacted virtually, even though the speakers were in different cities.

As these examples show, 5G provides many opportunities to empower an on-the-go workforce. Holzinger offers the following advice to managers who are just getting started on this path. “Understand what your requirements and use cases are,” he says. “Then start small and start learning.”

For organizations that may not be sure where to begin with 5G planning and implementation, understanding how to take a crawl-walk-run approach to 5G adoption is the first step. And of course, adds Holzinger, our solutions engineers are available to help.

Given the talent crunch that many businesses face, hiring managers need every advantage they can get. “Today employees expect more,” Holzinger says. “5G helps you give them what they need, when they need it.”

2022 5G Innovation Study: Understanding adoption & opportunities.

Read the latest data on how business leaders are leveraging 5G to optimize their business operations. The insights in this report will open opportunities to make your customers and employees happier and help you innovate new products.

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