How to Make Life Easier for Your Mobile Employees
IDC forecasts that the number of mobile workers in the United States will exceed 100 million by the year 2020—comprising at least 72% of the entire U.S. workforce. Flexible workers will account for a similar proportion (70%) of the U.K. workforce, according to a report from Lancaster University’s Work Foundation. Globally, the mobile workforce will include more than 1.75 billion people—40% of the total population.
Gallup found that a large majority of U.S. employees have either a strongly positive (42%) or somewhat positive (37%) view of working remotely outside of normal business hours. This survey also identified a correlation between higher levels of income and education and more frequent remote working. A majority of Americans (58%) say they believe remote workers are just as productive as those in the office.
U.K. employees surveyed for the Lancaster University report cited several benefits of mobile working, including:
- The ability to get more work done (44%)
- Feelings of trust in employees (42%)
- Improved work-life balance (35%)
However, U.K. managers noted that the transition to a mobile workforce is also creating challenges, such as:
- Working longer hours (37%)
- Less effective supervision (28%)
- Cultural barriers to mobility (24%)
- Changes in performance management (84%)
- Potential changes to employment terms (82%)
What Mobile Workers Want
As work increasingly shifts from company offices to employees’ homes and third-party sites, engagement and performance will become increasingly linked to how well each person’s job fits their lifestyle. Employers have a broad range of options they can use to keep employees engaged in their work even when they aren’t “at work”—and to make life easier for employees who work remotely.
A study from The Creative Group surveyed employees about which types of flexible work arrangements they prefer overall. Flexible scheduling was ranked first by 37% of respondents, followed by telecommuting and compressed workweeks (tied at 26%). A survey of young professionals in the Boston area by the Urban Land Institute also found that respondents’ job satisfaction is affected more by mobility-related features such as flexible schedules (68%) and proximity to transit (78%), compared to amenities in the office (32%). The survey also found that 37% of respondents work in an open/collaborative space—but only 19% consider this feature very important.
Transit-oriented development can be part of the solution in urban areas. Whether they are commuting daily, traveling between multiple sites, or truly “mobile”—professionals of all kinds need access to workspace. Mobile computing is also clearly an increasingly large piece of the puzzle. A 2016 report from Frost & Sullivan found that 98% of mobile employees use smartphones for business—and the vast majority of these are personal devices, with only 20% of companies providing work phones for employees.
The Need for Unified HCM Services and Support
As employees become more mobile, it is important for organizations to focus on consistently performing the basic functions of employment: payroll services, benefits administration, and day-to-day managerial support. An EY survey of global payroll leaders found that more than 50% of organizations believe it is important to achieve delivery of payroll through a single global vendor—but less than 30% had achieved this goal as of 2014, and 85% saw room for improvement in their processes.
In a knowledge-driven economy, workers also need to understand how to securely access data and communicate with colleagues from remote locations. A 2017 survey of 500 CIOs and senior IT decision-makers from the U.S., U.K., Germany, and France found that 93% of organizations are “somewhat or very concerned” about data security risks associated with the growing mobile workforce.
Interestingly, European organizations appeared less concerned about the risk: only 32% of U.K. respondents said they were “very concerned” about mobile security threats, compared to 58% of U.S. executives. This may be related to the fact that bring your own device (BYOD) policies are growing faster in the U.S., while European companies are holding back due in part to concern about requirements of the upcoming EU General Data Protection Regulation.
Overall, organizations are most concerned about location-based threats, such as mobile workers using public Wi-Fi networks to access company data in coffee shops, airports, and conference centers. Ultimately, companies must balance security concerns against the benefits of convenience and the need for employees to get work done.
Integrating these activities across international borders while complying with all applicable laws and regulations is a challenge for multinational companies—and it keeps getting bigger. A 2016 study conducted by WBR Digital found that 80% of top executives at global enterprises expected mobile strategy to be a “key enabler” during the coming year, and a majority expect continuing growth of their mobile workforces.
Accounting for Different Types of Mobile Workers
The nature of each employee’s work affects which devices, applications, and other resources they need to do the job. Different types of mobile employees have varying needs in terms of office and meeting room scheduling, payroll, and other services. For example, the needs of a lawyer or consultant who routinely travels between the home office and client sites will be very different from a banking executive who only travels occasionally, or an IT professional who moves around within a single location to resolve issues and train employees. These are all examples of “mobile” workers who need to be able to manage their schedules and utilize various workspaces.
Meeting the needs of a diverse mobile workforce—without creating a fragmented and insecure IT environment—is a significant challenge for multinational businesses. Facilitating transitions between home, office, and remote work environments is also critical at a time when an overwhelming share of most people’s work is being completed digitally, but physical office spaces retain importance and value to employees.
As this transition continues, the choices companies make regarding resource scheduling software and other HCM systems will have a growing impact on how effectively their workforces can function in the mobile future.