By Jan Willem Brands, General Manager Collaboration, Barco

The mobile workforce has reached record levels and never before have employees had so much flexibility over their working days. According to recent figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the number of people working from home in the UK is at its highest since records began, and now amounts to almost 14% of the UK workforce.

The proliferation of mobile technology has paved the way for more and more professionals to carry out their roles from a location outside the workplace, whether that is at home, on the road or pretty much anywhere they can take a smart device. While this has been liberating for many employees, mobile working is an ongoing challenge for businesses, from both a logistics perspective and dealing with the integration of BYOD into the workplace.

Some workers may be given the choice of being entirely home or office based, or a combination of the two. Whatever the set up, employees will still have to spend a period of time in the workplace, whether it is to do desk work or attend a meeting. This is one of the common challenges, particularly in terms of technology. Mobile working, and the resulting BYOD trend has resulted in an influx of smartphones, tablets and laptops on to the company network.

For companies to embrace BYOD and promote collaboration within the business, particularly the meeting room, they need to overcome those issues around interoperability. Meeting participants that wish to share content stored on their own devices – be it a sales presentation, spreadsheet, or other content – often find it difficult to do so because the available technology is unwieldy or potentially doesn’t support their device.

For smartphones and tablets especially, the difficulty in connecting to and getting content onto the shared screen is a major hindrance to efficiency. Connecting laptops, via cables and connections, can be time consuming and problematic, even when devices are connected successfully, machine settings must often be configured and screen resolution tweaked, which frequently requires the intervention of IT support staff. This all leads to a lot of time wastage prior to or during the meeting, which is likely to have a negative impact upon productivity.

What is needed in the meeting room is technology that easily allows smartphones, tablets and laptops to connect to a shared screen – either via wireless, or an app. However, for true collaboration it’s not enough just to be able to connect to a screen and share content. Many industries also require support for video and audio, but the real value lies in having the option for several people to share the screen at one time.

It is a simple idea but rather more complex in practice because the technology must be capable of supporting different operating systems at the same time, including Android, Windows and iOS. Again, traditional meeting room technology may be able to support these in isolation but collaborating through devices using multiple operating systems requires a specialist bridging technology. New and emerging meeting room technology can make connecting seamless and easy, either via Wi-Fi, USB or Bluetooth, with no software downloads or settings changes needed.

Supporting multiple device types using different operating systems can ease the way for a mobile workforce and enable businesses to be more flexible, more effective and more productive. It is vital to have supporting technologies in shared spaces – such as in the meeting room environment – particularly those where mobile workers can come together and collaborate for scenarios such as sales meetings, presentations and training, without being held back by technology limitations.