The number of mobile workers worldwide is expected to hit 1.3 billion by next year, or more than a third of the total workforce, according to 2013 research commissioned by ClickSoftware Technologies. The “seamless” web of electronic communications has, of course, made this a reality.
So the last decade has seen a determined shift towards greater collaboration, multiple work sites and mobility. Even admin workers can potentially work from home for up to four days a week, while the fastest growing group of mobile employees is “knowledge workers”, a group traditionally confined to a rigid 9-5 regime.
But the same study also found that many organisations are not always ready to embrace the full potential of this trend, set only to increase as all employees gain the right to request flexible working arrangements this summer. However, despite benefits including: reduced carbon footprint from daily commuting, reduction in paper printing, enhanced staff retention, consistently enhanced productivity etc nearly half of CIOs questioned, said that existing corporate strategy did not help deliver “the Mobile Dream”.
Of course, there have always been field-based staff, and teams of mobile workers not based in one fixed workplace – from sales people to utilities employees. Now, the range of employees who could be described as “mobile” encompasses those who may be based in an office for some of their working week, to those who work from home (coffee shops and anywhere with a WiFi connection) as well as staff who are fully mobile and operating from different buildings and areas to service a verity of customers.
Meanwhile a recent report from Trimble, makers of vehicle GPS tracking systems, indicates that the way an organisation manages its resources and mobile staff is vital to both customer service and brand perception.
At the same time, field workers or those who operate within Facilities Management (FM) need to make use of similar technology if they are to be as professional and as productive as possible. In doing so, more companies are turning to SaaS (software as a service) products over expensive licence based programs to unleash their next level of productivity.
Employees are also becoming more tech savvy and their expectations of the phones and hardware they wish to work with is in step with the product roadmaps of the likes of Apple and Samsung – rather than the outpaced IT department. While not ideal for every company, the trend in remote working is only going to increase and the smart employers are using it as a way of attracting, motivating and empowering certain individuals within their organisations.
It would seem both sets of employees, office and field workers, have much to learn from each other as they make transitions in a rapidly changing workplace. And, rather than being seen as polar opposites, perhaps members of each sector could be comparing notes about their different ways of working and leverage the newly available technology to bring the two together. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all must operate within the same monolith piece of Enterprise software, but rather, take advantage of the computers we all carry in our Pockets to bring people and work closer together.
This is especially true as the divisions between work/ home, office/ field work, become increasingly blurred. Such collaboration doesn’t necessarily need to take place particularly formally, or in a very structured way, but should focus on continuous dialogue and communication. This is somewhere ‘Cloud’ based technologies can really add value, in keeping everyone in sync – from field worker to office managers.
But it doesn’t stop there. The real value here is being able to work as an ‘extended team’, so not only bringing internal co-workers together, but also the external teams, suppliers and contractors who need to come together on many projects, but up to now have been limited by technology and complex workflows.
Organisations that embrace the mobile revolution and have adjusted their training, policies and procedures accordingly, without clinging to out-dated attitudes, are most likely to reap the benefits. All staff need to be able to connect with each other, and to make use of the best technological tools their employer can afford.
This technology is now accessible through the cheapest mobile devices and can bring even the most geographically dispersed teams together. Collaboration is key, communication needs to flow and the technology is here to help even the smallest of companies grow. The challenge is in transitioning companies from legacy systems (paper and technology based) to the new cloud and mobile realm.
Stuart and the PocketFM team