By Terry Hearn
As technology continues to evolve, its impact on industry is fundamentally altering how the workplace is perceived. Office-based work has become truly mobile and is no longer restricted to a team operating in the same room. The size of the global mobile workforce is expected to continue to increase, accounting for 42.5% of the entire global workforce by 2022. This level of growth demonstrates that mobile working has moved from being an exception to a commonly accepted component of modern working.
It is a change that employees have embraced and has become integral to how they choose to work. Among a series of interesting insights, the 2018 Mobile Workforce report by Avast Business has revealed mobile working is so popular that 12% of workers would rather reject a 25% pay rise than relinquish the option to work remotely. In addition, more than half of those surveyed said it would take a pay rise of more than 16% for them to agree to give up the option to work remotely.
This demonstrates that for many workers, the flexibility and freedom to work when and where they feel most comfortable is far more valuable than remuneration. But what does this mean for business? By looking at the benefits of mobile working, and the concerns that businesses may have, we aim to discover how giving employees increased trust can result in improvements in productivity and wellbeing.
Trusting in your team
While it is clear that flexible working can have a positive impact on employee wellbeing and productivity (38% of respondents feel they are most productive at home), staff are also aware of the barriers that might make employers cautious about remote working. The Avast Business report reveals that 45% of employees believe that trust is the biggest barrier, closely followed by productivity and communication.
Everyone in the company must be able to trust everyone else to be motivated and, a study of 2,000 UK workers by Bupa have revealed that one in five workers would feel happier at work if more trust was put in them.
Wellbeing and supporting employees are part of a healthy business culture and that means that the workers are keen to reciprocate by working longer hours where necessary to ensure that productivity is not affected by mobile working.
48% of workers surveyed in a YouGov poll said they weren’t allowed to work remotely, with data privacy and loss of productivity potential reasons for this decision. And it is understandable that businesses would hold this concern. With numerous employees accessing company data remotely, how can the safety of that information be secured?
A large part of fostering a trusting relationship with employers is that staff operating outside the office understand and take responsibility for the security risks that may occur as a result of human error, and avoid taking unnecessary risks such as accessing business accounts on unsecure public networks. But it is just as important to make sure that remote security is not an afterthought and is prioritised alongside the office network. There are practical steps such as setting up a VPN and implementing antivirus software, but the key is effective communication through regular training so that staff are clear about what they are responsible for and how to flag issues.
Businesses can reduce the security concerns of mobile working by investing in the right technologies to ensure that sensitive data is secure no matter where it is being accessed. By going the extra mile to make working from home seamless and secure demonstrates that the company is being proactive in making sure their employees have the flexibility to work when and wherever benefits them the most.
A lack of face-to-face communication could be perceived as being an issue that mobile working raises, but modern communication does not have to be expensive. Through emails, Skype and Google Hangouts as well as phone calls, communication between staff is simple and can be conducted by businesses with even a modest IT system. This includes working on collaborative documents stored in the cloud, making them simple to access and work on from anywhere.
The key to successful communication is not access, but that everyone understands their objectives and targets. This allows workers to track their progress and be judged on the quality of their work rather than the time they spend sitting at their desk, and allows business owners to know that projects are on schedule.
Benefits to business
While it might be a significant change from the traditional structure and process for a company, the prospect of a mobile workforce can have multiple benefits. For example, recruitment is no longer geographically restricted, allowing the best talent to join the team no matter where they live. With reduced need for bricks and mortar office space, there are plenty of cost-related benefits as well.
When asked about the benefits of flexible working, employers said it was a great boost to productivity (30% of respondents), work/life balance (33%) and happiness (34%). Adjusting working hours and locations to suit the individual can help to reduce anxiety and stress, and removing the daily commute creates more time in the day to complete work, perform domestic tasks or simply relax and approach work in a better state of mind.
As employees continue to seek a healthier balance between their home and work lives, mobile working is only going to become more established. But for it to work successfully, both staff and employees will have to work together and build trust. This will demonstrate that this new way of working, while untraditional, can be extremely beneficial to everyone involved.