By Ravi Narayan

The Internet of Things (a.k.a. IoT, or Wi-Fi-connected technology) is enabling the creation of smart home offices across the world. Increasingly, employees are able to organize and manage a meeting at the head office even while working from a coffee shop across the world.

Research by Cisco estimates that the global quantum of IoT-based devices will reach a staggering 50 billion by the year 2020. By that same year, studies indicate that half of a company’s full-time workforce would be working remotely.

Is it a coincidence, or is there a real connection between IoT and remote work?

A growing number of entrepreneurs and business leaders are looking for ways to improve their remote work operations, and are exploring IoT as a way to improve productivity for their work-at-home-staff.

Remote Work Leads to Cost Savings

Many companies understand that flexible work schedules keep employees happy, thereby increasing productivity and reducing employee attrition (a major expense for any business). Eliminating the daily office commute also makes working from home a compelling alternative for many employees (and their employers).

Hiring remote workers also allows companies to spend less on lease costs and other overhead, like maintaining on-site staff and purchasing office equipment. Moreover, it enables businesses to access global talent without having to move them across borders. Additionally, it’s becoming more affordable — even for small business owners — to buy and install these IoT tools.

Take the case of Nebraska-based company SmartRow, which partnered with Attunix to use IoT devices to track fertilizer distribution on crops and get a precise GPS location in certain areas all from a mobile tablet. Larger companies like Harley-Davidson are investing in IoT-enabled production facilities and have reduced costs by 7 percent, improved employee productivity by 2.4 percent and increased net margin by an impressive 19 percent.

IoT Can Improve Home Office Efficiency

Connected light bulbs (and even connected coffee machines) can be programmed to turn on automatically when an employee enters their home office. Smart thermostats can automatically control the temperature — saving money, hassle and time for increased productivity at work.

But the perks don’t stop there — smart office chairs can even nudge your employees to stretch their legs if they have been sitting at their desks for too long , and IoT-enabled scanners can order printer cartridges automatically whenever they need to be replenished. Simply put, working remotely from a smart home office can make business operations more efficient on nearly every level and leave more time for employees to get more work done during the day since they’re not caught up in mundane tasks.

Providing Remote Access to Office Facilities

Businesses can now use Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and other networking technologies to allow interaction between remote employees and on-site team members as if they were actually in the same room together. Using remote client apps, employees can access office servers and data easily and securely from anywhere with internet access — and on any laptop, desktop computer or tablet.

Remote employees can even use connected devices to run an entire presentation for a team seated in a meeting room at the office.

With the right setup, a remote meeting leader can program the lights to turn on when participants enter a meeting room. Once all members are present — virtually or physically — the meeting leader can instruct a smart projector to begin the presentation and other devices to transcribe the minutes of the meeting. They can even use IoT-enabled printers to print hard copies on location for meeting participants.

Once the presentation is complete, smart devices can automatically restore the room settings and send an email to all participants with the meeting transcript. Such internet-connected smart offices enable employees to manage their time and resources more efficiently, which improves collaboration and productivity while reducing operational costs.

The Future Is Bright for IoT

Availability of affordable technology has skyrocketed the growth of remote work over the past decade. IoT is yet another up-and-coming technology that will make remote work even more popular among both employers and employees.

Ravi Narayan is the Managing Director, Head of Product Engineering and Chief Information Officer at Esurance. He has nearly three decades of technology and leadership experience and has held a variety of technology and development roles. Ravi writes on all things tech and as they relate to the insurance industry. To learn more about Esurance’s home insurance options, visit the Esurance website.

Remote worker stock photo by fizkes/Shutterstock