Workforce mobility has been climbing its way to the top of many CIOs’ priority lists for almost a decade. However, in 2020 there was a rapid shift to long term remote working as a direct result of the pandemic.
According to a UK government study, in April 2020, 46.6% of people in employment did at least some work at home.
Many of the old barriers to workforce mobilisation broke down with businesses racing to give their employees secure access to vital infrastructure enabling them to continue to work regardless of location. 82% of businesses ramped up their use of cloud technologies to support their mobile workforce. Legacy systems were updated and employees had to get used to new processes and collaboration tools.
As organisations continue to face new and unexpected challenges, IT departments are constantly reviewing and developing their IT strategies to allow for greater agility and improved mobility. Of course, with any radical shift, concerns exist and must be addressed. However, many business leaders and employees have seen the benefits of mobile working and are likely to continue to support and improve their IT estate to allow for further flexibility.
In this blog, we share the top 7 benefits of a mobile workforce including:
- Cost Savings
- Improved Work/Life Balance
- Decreased Commute, Increase Productivity
- Access To Better Talent
- Business continuity
- Faster innovation
- Flexible meeting locations
With the majority of employees still working from home, office blocks and city centres remain deserted. But is this a glimpse into the future of businesses or is a return to the hustle and bustle of city life on the horizon?
Without a doubt, many businesses will have recognised a huge opportunity for significant costs savings. Ryan Galloway for Forbes says, “a mobile workforce lowers overhead. No more sprawling offices. No more vast IT infrastructures.”
Alongside its people, a businesses’ premises is one of its biggest outgoings. Many businesses are looking to downgrade their office space perhaps choosing the flexibility offered by co-working providers as an alternative, whilst some large enterprises are set on completely doing away with offices, such as Capita who will be closing over a third of its offices permanently.
Another big cost-saving benefit of a mobile workforce is the reduction in IT infrastructure and storage space. With businesses migrating their legacy on-premise servers to the cloud, they remove the need to purchase, store and maintain physical infrastructure. With a monthly ongoing payment plan businesses also have the flexibility to scale their cloud capacity in line with business growth or fluctuations in service.
A mobile workforce lowers overhead. No more sprawling offices. No more vast IT infrastructures.
Improved Work/Life Balance
U.S. office supply giant Staples conducted a study on mobile working that confirmed what many would assume; remote workers are happier, healthier and do better work. Of those who participated in the study, 73% improved their diet and stress levels decreased significantly. Last but not least, ‘work/life balance’—a subjective but important measure of employee satisfaction—improved for 80% of employees.
A study by McCrindle Research showed that work/life balance is the number one factor in employee retention. Given the high cost of employee turnover—thousands of pounds per employee at least—it’s safe to say that creating happy employees is in the best interest of the entire organisation. Once seen as a privilege given to those higher up the company ladder, the mental health benefits of a mobile workforce will see employers extend remote working beyond the leadership team, even after offices re-open.
Decreased Commute, Increased Productivity
At first glance, decreasing employees’ commute time seems like a one-sided benefit. On average a full-time employee given the option to work from home for at least half of their workweek could accumulate around £7,000 in annual savings. However, just like work/life balance, improvements for the lives of employees can have major positive impacts on a company’s bottom line.
One of the principal factors is worker interest; the likelihood that an employee will be disengaged nearly doubles when he or she has a long commute. Whilst mobile workers are said to work on average as many as seven more hours per week than office-bound employees. Why? More often than not, they still have more time to devote to their lives outside of work once a commute no longer becomes necessary.
Access To Better Talent
As the pace of innovation increases, agility becomes very important. How fast can your company shift direction? How fast can teams adjust to shifting priorities in the middle of projects?
Often, company agility comes down to a question of talent acquisition and management. If it becomes apparent that a project will need a SQL expert, but there’s none available, trying to find a new employee who can come into the office and work full-time will probably not be worth the time or money. The project manager will have to cut corners or even eliminate vital elements from the project, undermining the results and essentially coming up short. Moreover, even if the manager hires an SQL expert, the options will be limited to people in the vicinity of the company office. That’s not so bad for a London-based company, but it can be a death knell for companies trying to thrive outside of urban areas.
The benefit of operating a mobile workforce is that you have a much wider talent pool to choose from with no geographical restrictions. Businesses can hire from across the country and in some cases across the globe.
We live in a world that is ‘always on’, if a server goes down at the office, employees need to be able to quickly get back online to continue with daily operations. Any downtime could have a negative impact on productivity, customer experience and profitability.
The benefit of moving to a mobile workforce is that your infrastructure is hosted in the cloud significantly minimising the risk of service issues. On the rare occasion that a cloud server does go down, a reliable provider (i.e. Azure and AWS) will have put measures in place such as automatic failovers, backup servers and generators, to minimise any issues – it’s unlikely you will even realise there was a problem at all.
Furthermore, in the event of a disaster (such as Covid) or even if you’re struggling to get to the office (due to the unpredictable UK weather), business continuity is guaranteed. Employees are able to sign on from home and easily access the information they need to operate as normal.
The pandemic has forced businesses to innovate faster than ever before and it doesn’t look like this will be slowing down anytime soon. 66% of surveyed respondents said they will continue to increase their overall use of the cloud for the foreseeable future and many CIOs remain confident that their IT budgets will increase in 2021.
Businesses that invested heavily in resilient mobile technology solutions and are now looking to expand their IT applications making use of more innovative technology such as AI, machine learning and Internet of Thing (IoT). Migration to leading collaboration tools such as Microsoft Office 365 and improved business communications solutions has also been a key benefit of moving to a mobile workforce.
Flexible Meeting Locations
Over the past year, we’ve all got used to using platforms such as Teams, Zoom and RingCentral to host our business meetings and even our family quiz night. Although face-to-face interactions are still invaluable, the convenience of being able to meet without travelling ensures we stay productive, reduce costs and even has a positive environmental impact.
Business meetings that once required employees to travel miles across the country or even catch a plane can be run just as effectively via a video call. Even big events and exhibitions have been successfully hosted virtually.
Challenges of a Mobile Workforce
Workforce mobility isn’t all sunshine and roses. Ditching the office does come with its challenges, including:
You may have spent years building a company culture, a joint vision and a work environment that your employees are proud of, but maintaining your core values whilst operating a mobile workforce can have its difficulties. How do you ensure a consistent experience for new starters and how do you ensure employees still feel part of a wider team?
Decline in Innovation
Whilst we have seen rapid innovation over the past year, some experts are concerned that the rate of innovation will plateau, not to mention decision making and project approval times may increase.
Employees who are not spending time together may feel discouraged from reaching out to others. Remote employees may be less likely to ask questions and might feel less liable for their mistakes. A reduced sense of ownership can harm the quality of work that employees produce.
Mobilising the workforce raises serious security concerns. In a regulated office environment, it is much easier to govern the handling of sensitive data and ensure employees do not expose their systems to malicious malware.
It is crucial for businesses operating mobile workforces to:
- Provide company devices or ensure any personal devices have the latest security software installed
- Remind employees not to use personal email addresses for work purposes
- Put a data loss/theft policy in place
- Create processes for swift management of security incidents
- Use Mobile Device Management to ensure they can quickly wipe any devices that may have been lost or stolen. They can also manage access to corporate resources using device health information
- Ensure all employees set up two-factor authentication
- Warn employees about the risks of unsecured networks and ensure they use Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
- Send out regular security updates
- Set up policies for downloading applications
- Make employees aware of Phishing emails and ensure they are sufficiently trained in how to spot them
Workforce mobility is not an all-or-nothing issue. Although many businesses have seen the benefits of a mobile workforce first-hand, there is still an argument for going to the office. In fact, after working from home for almost a year, most employees would agree that a mixture of office and mobile working would best suit their needs.
As we’ve seen in this blog employee productivity and health improves, whilst also enabling them to save money. What’s more business owners and management teams can optimise business operations with innovative technology, more efficient meetings, greater access to talent and improved business continuity.
Conosco has helped numerous businesses transition to a remote workforce, implementing cloud technology and deploying collaboration platforms all whilst ensuring robust security and data protection. Get in touch with our team for more information on how we can improve your IT estate to better support your mobile workforce.