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Will your office ‘go mobile’ in 2017?

(Image credit: Image Credit: GaudiLab / Shutterstock)

The trend for flexible, remote working continued apace last year, and TUC figures indicate the number of people working from home rose by 19% between 2006 and 2016. This shift is expected to advance in the months ahead, with Cloud technology almost relegating the traditional office setup to a bygone era. 

The advent of superfast broadband, 4G, and now even 5G mobile, means it’s now easier than ever to work remotely, with employees able to access company networks from virtually anywhere in the world, on any device.   

Why are more companies working this way? 

There are multiple benefits to embracing the mobile office revolution, and most employers look to embrace mobile working for two principal reasons: practicality and agility.   

When thinking about the practical advantages of mobility, you’ll want to consider resilience and disaster recovery. In the event of inclement weather, flooding, fire - or any other form of disaster - office staff are inherently more vulnerable than mobile workers, especially if a Hosted telephony system is in place to facilitate the continuity of normal operations via Cloud connectivity.  

Reducing the square footage of your rented office space is also another huge plus point for going mobile, freeing up funds for more profitable purposes, such as investing in business development or, simply, boosting your bottom line. 

Being open to staff working from home also encourages talented people to stay with their employers, as they can work around childcare and potential health issues. In the not so distant past, parents would be hamstrung when it came to half-term or children being ill, but remote connectivity ensures they can now carry out duties while being at home. 

In the fast-paced modern world, working flexible hours is an attractive proposition to many - especially younger people - so having the freedom to take extended breaks and make up the time in the evenings, or early mornings for that matter, is a bonus that can keep your workforce motivated. 

Enterprise mobility is another key factor for future success, and mobile workforces can empower businesses to respond to customer needs at a greater speed, as staff can be better positioned to resolve situations as they emerge.  

For SME’s facing stiff competition from bigger rivals, embracing a ‘mobile office’ can be crucial to getting established in the marketplace, as they can usually respond at speed and with greater efficiency than companies that are slow to adopt newer technology and more progressive practices.   

Embracing mobility for speedy success

A communications system focused on mobility is perfect for businesses looking to make things happen quickly; the ability to share files, call, conference, email and Instant Message immediately, without needing to setup and install expensive hardware, reduces the barriers that can block startup success. 

It’s also critical to weigh-up today’s workforce. Millennials (those reaching adulthood in the early part of the 21st century) are digital natives - brought up in a world where they’re able to access anything, at any time, on any device, anywhere, and people of this generation are likely to prefer working for companies that embrace a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) mobile strategy.   

Essentially, this requires adjusting working practices to suit young talent, and many progressive organisations are doing this to attract the very best employees and maximise productivity. Businesses keen to get ahead with mobility must put a straightforward strategy in place from the outset. Full training should be given and policies drawn up to make sure team members using mobile devices do so appropriately, maintaining the security procedures and usage guidelines that would be expected of office-based staff. 

Proper planning is required 

There are various benefits to going down the mobile office route - deskspace cost-savings for one - and mobility is now making a real impact on how businesses operate, as staff increasingly enjoy the flexibility of working from home. Conferencing and information sharing is no longer restricted to staff being present on-site, with video meetings enabling occasional face-to-face contact, allowing everyone to ‘touch base’ and helping to ensure agile operations run smoothly. 

Tools such as Google Drive Mobile allow multiple team members to collaborate on projects at the same time, making suggested edits in real-time rather than sending drafts of documents back-and-forth via email. Applications like DeskTime or RescueTime can also help boost productivity and ensure everyone keeps on track. 

However, full consideration must be given to adequate data requirements and the right mobility platforms in order to guarantee your transition to a mobile office is seamless and in line with business goals. It’s imperative to do your research and discuss options with multiple service providers before rushing into decisions - getting a broad range of opinions from those in the know can help you maximise your mobile journey. 

Weighing it up 

Not being able ‘keep an eye’ on everyone and be sure that operations are running as efficiently as possible, is one obvious potential downside to mobile working. There is a risk that mobile workers hide behind their mobile devices, perhaps not working at optimal levels, somewhat coasting along because they don’t have to worry about face-to-face confrontation. 

On the flipside, rather than being skeptical about slacking, it’s also important to remember to offer support to remote workers rather than them being out of sight, out of mind. With some figures reporting that the US mobile workforce now stands at 38%, counselling services have been set up to offer emotional support to mobile workers

There is an argument that remote working lacks the personal touch, which can be detrimental to operations, while mobile workers can also find it difficult to switch-off, constantly in work mode because it’s so easy to stay connected. This, invariably, leads to burnout and time off due to stress. 

Thus, it’s crucial to ensure that your mobile team work sensibly; if you see them regularly editing documents or replying to emails late at night, you should discuss this with them and make sure they’re not feeling overloaded. If this is the case, the quality of work is bound to falter, so it’s not worth sitting by and letting them get on with it. They’ll appreciate you taking care, and will feel even more motivated to do a good job while maintaining their work-life balance. 

It’s also advisable to conduct fairly regular real world meetings, fostering good relations and ensuring that your mobile team actually feels, and acts, like a proper team rather than isolated individuals. Going mobile is certainly growing in popularity, but touching base in person will always be beneficial. 

Image Credit: GaudiLab / Shutterstock

Ross Howard
Ross Howard is the IT Editor at Insights For Professionals who deliver global news and thought leadership around business.