Great guest post by Tara Gale, the client solutions marketing manager, at Dell Ireland.

Employers expect it. Employees desperately strive for it. But despite all the attention “worker productivity” gets, it’s still a mystery to most of us.

Dell’s Evolving Workforce report found that seven out of ten employees say they do their best work in a corporate office, at a desk. Yet seven out of ten employees who do at least 75% of their work at home report that’s where they’re most productive. And when asked about the remote workforce in general, employees are sharply divided as to whether they think people working at home are as productive as those in the office (52% saying yes, and the rest saying they didn’t think so or weren’t sure).

We might not be sure which environmental factors make one person more productive than another, but technology providers have long recognized that the more natural and uninterrupted the work experience is, the better people can perform.

One of the best executions of this philosophy is Microsoft’s recent release of Windows 10. The new OS is finely geared for productivity, from the fluid interchange among mobile and desktop devices to the creation of more natural interactions using voice recognition and stylus-based “inking,” among many other special features.

Microsoft is enabling productivity in the best way a tech provider can—by getting out of workers’ way. The best devices for productivity are designed to do the same, starting with a few key features:

Brighter, bigger screens on ultra-portable devices
You might not think of a screen as an element that would affect productivity, but consider how the screen size impacts the size and weight – and ultimately the portability – of a device.

One advancement currently being made is giving a typical-sized 11-inch computer a 13.3-inch display through investing in an infinity design, with a virtually nonexistent bezel. Doing so not only makes notebooks easier for workers to carry, but also easier to use on airplanes and in other tight spaces as they traveled and worked remotely. Form factor adjustments like this are important for solving productivity challenges for the remote workforce, who needs to be able to work comfortably from anywhere, not just home offices.

Brighter and higher-resolution screens also make it easier for workers to use their devices outside during the day, removing another common impediment to remote productivity. Imagine how much more general contractors, police officers, paramedics and other “field workers” can do when their devices are easily usable even in glaring sunlight.

Small, backlit keyboards that don’t feel cramped
Likewise, a keyboard might not seem related to productivity at first blush, but if its size and layout don’t feel comfortable to workers, it can stand in the way of a natural workflow. One way this issues can be addressed on smaller devices is to keep primary keys larger, while reducing the size of lesser-used keys like Backspace.

In addition, backlit keys can be important for workers who travel (think red-eye flights) or work at night. This small detail can make a big difference in worker productivity on a day-to-day basis.

Touch interfaces
Like its predecessor, Windows 10 has a tile-based design that screams “touch interface” (the difference being that Windows 10 also transitions seamlessly into a desktop-optimized version when a keyboard and mouse are detected). While we don’t have to convince anyone that touch will be the status quo across devices in the future, it’s worth pointing out that touch creates a much more natural interaction with those devices, leading to greater productivity, especially when compared with a traditional mouse-driven interface.

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And the introduction of Microsoft Edge, the new browser introduced with Windows 10, solves a few key problems remote workers face—namely, the inability to interact with whiteboards or hand-drawn notes in a collaborative way without being physically in the room with others. Devices that include a highly sensitive stylus can enable workers to take advantage of Edge’s “inking” capability. This allows users to open their 2-in-1 device or tablet and simply begin writing, as they would on a paper notebook, while Edge automatically opens the appropriate note-taking app. Imagine the implications for online meetings, where the presenter’s screen becomes a virtual whiteboard. Users can also write directly on web pages and send those in-page notes to others, providing almost limitless possibilities for easy remote collaboration on purchasing decisions, web design, competitive research, and more.

Commercial-grade materials
As the lines between personal device use and work use have blurred over the past few years, hardware manufacturers have responded with more commercial-grade consumer products. To fully support mobile productivity, mobile devices will continue to become lighter, stronger and faster at the same time, relying more on carbon fiber casings to achieve the requisite combination of durability and lightness.

Biometric sensors
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One of the biggest concerns companies have about mobile workers is security. Devices can be lost or stolen, and it’s difficult to ensure workers are taking proper precautions to avoid security risks (updating software, avoiding unsecured networks, locking their devices). As a result, some companies place highly restrictive security policies in place, which can drastically slow down the process of logging into WiFi, performing Internet research, sharing files, and performing other crucial day-to-day tasks.

Windows 10 addresses some of these problems by incorporating a multi-factor authentication process that uses the device as one factor and a biometric, such facial recognition, as the other. This not only makes the system more secure, making employers happy; it makes it easier for authorized users to pass through security gateways. For example, if a remote worker is working from a coffee shop for the day and gets up to get a refill, the device should automatically shut down access to its files. When the worker returns to his or her seat, the device should recognize his or her face and automatically restore access.

Of course, to accomplish this, devices need to include biometric sensors such as fingerprint readers or 3D cameras. These features are becoming more common on devices as consumers and pros alike recognize the benefits of biometrics for security and productivity.

Productivity may be a personal battle, but technology can play a big role in supporting or inhibiting workers as they fight that battle. From the keyboard to the screen, a device’s form factor can mean the difference between an employee comfortably finishing a report on the airplane or pushing it off to another already-stress-filled day. So perhaps it’s time to think not only about where your employees work, but how. To contribute most meaningfully to your employees’ success, select machines designed with their productivity and comfort in mind.

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