By 2013 market research firm IDC predicts more than a third of the world’s workforce will be mobile workers with nearly 130 million people in Western Europe being mobile.
But as companies wise up to benefits such as savings on property costs, fewer overheads, improved staff morale and raised productivity, they’ll need a strategy to manage and support their mobile workers in a structured way.
Relying on cafes or hotels as the lynchpins of mobile work should not be part of any company’s agile working plan. Not only do they diminish a corporation’s image and the employee’s professionalism, but their use also risks breaches of confidentiality, and affects productivity and efficiency.
Instead, companies can maximise their mobile workers’ productivity by following these 10 steps:
1. Make sure employees on the move are properly kitted out. Provide the best and most appropriate technology to help staff work efficiently when working remotely, eg a smartphone, laptop, dongle, wi-fi or broadband access. And make sure they have IT helpdesk support if anything goes wrong.
2. Ensure staff aren’t isolated if they work from home. Offer alternative workplaces such as a hotdesk in the office or workspace in a business centre, and encourage them to keep in touch in person at least once a week. Managers should call in regularly to make sure they have all they need.
3. Don’t forget health and safety at home. Provide adequate advice on ergonomic office space at home before agreeing to homeworking, eg information on how to adjust a chair to the right height or avoid trip hazards such as trailing cables.
4. Keep staff connected. It’s hard for staff to stay engaged when on the move, so set up opportunities for team briefings and meetings where the whole team meets regularly face-to-face.
5. Create a set of rules for staff to follow when they’re out on their own. These should cover circumstances they’re likely to meet, such as meeting a client in a public place, taking calls on public transport and working in client offices.
6. Cafes are for food and drink not business. Business and the bustling café latte culture do not always mix. Provide mobile workers with access to a quiet place to work while on the road where they can get online and be productive.
7. Do not allow meetings in hotel lobbies or casual settings like libraries. Private conversations are never private in public areas.
8. Mobile calls attract strangers on a train. Instruct staff not to make business calls on trains but if they have to take a call, warn the person on the line where they are. Ask them to suggest calling back when they are in more suitable environs such as the office.
9. Seek alternatives to the client’s spare workspace. Mobile workers sometimes have to be near clients but you don’t want clients overhearing sensitive conversations. Give staff access to outsourced first-class offices, which can be reserved by the hour, day, month or year. These allow staff to keep business professional and private.
10. Save on travel and the environment. It’s no longer necessary to travel abroad to take part in a meeting in person. Videoconferencing provides the same face-to-face contact and helps reduce air miles. If staff have to travel, allow them to remain productive by using business lounges and business centres at airports.
From broadband and wi-fi to tablet PCs and smartphones, technology is driving change faster than most organisations can adapt. As mobile working rapidly advances changes in the way we work, companies will be left by the wayside unless they evolve with the times.
But while its vitally important that companies maximise the productivity of remote workers by offering them support, it’s just as critical for employees to take every effort to remain productive as they shoulder more responsibility.
Celia Donne is regional director at Regus.
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