Mobile is the New Norm: A Millennial Perspective on Apps in the Workplace

Submitted by on Tue, 09/27/16

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This post is a contribution to the Modo Labs guest blog series. 

I’ll just get this out of the way right now: I’m a millennial. There, I said it! Now take a moment to judge me. Go ahead, take it. OK, are you good? Because while I may be a millennial—and I may or may not fall into any number or stereotypes associated with being a millennial—I also have a lot of experience in an emerging technology that is about to take over your workplace, and it probably has already eased its way into your personal life. It’s a technology that almost every single American under the age of 35 has grown up with, and almost every American under the age of 20 has never known life without.

Mobile technology is already in your pocket for everything from catching up with your friends to checking on your retirement portfolio to buying essentially anything—but is it in your workplace? Do you use it for your daily tasks? If not, then why?

If you work in IT, then having access to a mobile device, specifically a smartphone with all of your daily tasks available on the go, is priceless. Say you’re at your desk with your laptop, and you get a call that you need to go to an off-site location with a computer problem. Your desktop can’t be moved and your laptop is heavy, but your phone fits in your pocket and it can do anything your larger devices can. You take your phone, go to the location, maybe call the user having the problem while you walk over, and then document and close out the ticket right from the mobile application. The user can then be notified through an app notification on his or her own mobile devices that you’ve solved the issue.

Another area where workplace apps can enhance the work environment is through project management. On a daily basis, I use my reminders app all the time for tasks like making sure I pick up something from the grocery store to rescheduling my dentist appointment. This kind of reminders system would be ideal for project management. I’ve used sites like Trello for my personal to-do list and collaborative work, and if I got reminders on my phone that I had a deadline coming up or that my boss flagged an item as essential, I’d be able to better plan my day.

One area where mobile apps have improved communication in my own workplace is through texting and off-hours communication. Apps like Cortext and TigerText allow employees to communicate with each other on their phones without having to give out their cellphone numbers. For workplaces where there is an on-call shift, this kind of communication is essential. If you need to reach someone immediately, apps like these make sure that your message comes through loud and clear. What makes apps like these even better is that they’re secure, allowing employees to send information that they wouldn’t be able to through normal texting.

This is a reality in some settings, and an emerging one in many more. We are inherently mobile, and many of our days are spent in various environments, so why shouldn’t our devices be, too? We live in a world where being able to check your email on your way to your next meeting across town is a reality, but this is only a tiny slice of a day. What about logging a help desk ticket? Finding an open conference room for your impromptu meeting? Taking notes? These are all things that you already have the ability to do, but maybe the mobile app for these tasks hasn’t been created yet in your workplace.

Here’s another space for mobile tech to grow: a way for work apps to be locked during off hours. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we should bring our work home with us, or vice versa. Personally, I think that there should be a way to turn work “off” after 5 o’clock hits, especially if you’re using your personal device for work applications. The technology to accomplish these types of tasks is already there, and it’s getting better every day. Take, for example, locked apps for messages and documents, such as Message Lock and Hide Pictures PhotoSafe Vault. These apps help lock information; however it’s also possible that developers could lock apps based on time of the day, and restrict them to work hours only.

The future is certainly less tied down by wires and keyboards and mice. Desktops and laptops have their place, without a doubt, but they’re just a piece of the puzzle that makes up a workday. Mobile apps can do so much more and can be more streamlined than webpages. When working on a phone, accessing information in an app is far quicker than opening Safari or Chrome and searching for a bookmark or URL to get where you need to go. Apps take you directly where you need to be, and they can stay running in the background. If I’m trying to post to my college’s bulletin board, but don’t have my post finalized yet, I can keep the college bulletin board app running while in my document management app I finalize the wording to my post and add a graphic header, all while waiting for the next train.

Everything I’ve mentioned so far isn’t far-fetched and is probably already available in one app or another, so the question remains: why doesn’t my day look like the scenarios I’ve described? The potential for mobile apps is unlimited, but we’ve only just begun. Most people still work from a desktop or laptop, and many will continue to, but there are so many avenues where tablets and phones can take over. Facebook and Instagram have taken over the entertainment and social media realm of mobile apps; it’s just a matter of time before we hear of an app just as influential for the workplace.

Emily O’Neill is an Applications Analyst and has worked with complex workplace technologies since 2012. She graduated from Bridgewater State University with a Bachelor of Science in English and an honors thesis. She currently works in health IT, and lives in Taunton, Massachusetts.

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