Future of Work Study Says Mobile Workers Demanding Easier Way to Work
Workers outside the traditional corporate office say current document formats becoming “dinosaurs”
The “holy grail” for mobile workers is to be able to easily access and use information no matter which format it is in -- paper or digital, says new ethnographic research conducted by Xerox..
In the study, entitled “The Future of Work,” Xerox social scientists set out to understand how the use of paper, printing and documents will change as the workplace becomes more mobile and distributed. To do this, they studied a group of non-traditional, virtual workers, observing how they used technology, collaborated with co-workers and integrated work and personal life.
“This research and a broader Xerox Knowledge Work 2020 study play key roles in inventing the devices of tomorrow,” said Jennifer Watts-Perotti, cognitive engineer and member of the Xerox work practice team. “Mobile workers told us that current document formats are becoming “dinosaurs.” Today it takes too much time to reuse content in multiple document formats – for example, you can’t easily edit, file and reuse content from mobile devices.”
The results of the study offer a glimpse into the issues facing tomorrow’s “knowledge workers” who are expected to operate more like free agents than traditional office employees:
- It still is difficult to bridge the gap between paper and digital. Mobile workers say they use bits of paper to take notes, and still collect business cards but have no way to easily incorporate that information into their digital world.
- Mobile workers can’t access their “stuff” from wherever they are. They want to see the same material from their laptop, PDA or phone.
- Smartphone users see their phones as extensions of themselves. Many are using their phone in parallel with their laptop, and in many cases, a smart phone is replacing the computer as the “go to” device for information.
Watts-Perotti also noted that mobile and remote workers printed documents in an effort to overcome small screen size, battery and portability problems, and to remind themselves of what they needed to work on. “If you are using a smart phone, editing documents is still easier to do on paper, but once the documents are printed, they become completely separated from their digital counterparts and changes made to the paper versions must be manually re-entered into the digital versions,” said Watts-Perotti.
Study findings are reflected in new capabilities for Xerox’s Enterprise Print Services (EPS) customers, launched last fall. By providing mobile workers with the same support system they would get when working in the corporate office, Xerox is the first to help companies better manage documents across their entire global print infrastructure – from the office to the in-house print center to the virtual workplace.
Mobile workers using EPS benefit from universal print drivers for easy access to print output devices when they need to work in corporate offices, while Xerox monitors off-site devices and reaches out via phone, e-mail or Web-based support sessions to provide technical assistance when they are working in a remote location.
Xerox has been incorporating the work of ethnography within the company research and development efforts for over 30 years. Xerox ethnographers typically conduct observational field studies, collecting various data, audio and video recordings, notes on the observations, screenshots, documents and other artifacts to better understand how people work and interact with technology.
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