The growth of technology continues to dramatically change the world around us, challenging what is perceived to be typical behaviour
This can be seen in the home where streaming services have changed the way people watch television, and smart devices and home automation have normalised voice controls. It has also infiltrated the workplace, where cloud computing has enabled an increasing culture of working remotely.
With 42.5% of the entire global workforce expected to be working remotely by 2022, the change in working dynamics has been dramatic, but is expected to continue gaining popularity.
From eliminating commuting to making childcare more manageable, there are numerous reasons why workers are keen to spend less time in a traditional bricks-and-mortar office. This promise of increased flexibility and control over when and where people work was revealed in the 2018 edition of the Avast Business Mobile Workforce report, in which over half respondents said it would take a significant pay rise (16% or more) for them to even consider a job with no mobile working option.
If workers are prioritising this new dynamic over remuneration, companies must adapt to accommodate this change in the modern attitude to work.
Trust and communication
It is clear that there are many potential benefits to mobile working, but UK businesses are slow to implement these policies. Just 37% offer some form of flexibility, and one in ten don’t currently remote working at all. In some cases, trust is considered the biggest barrier to wider implementation. After all, how can workers be left at home and resist the temptations of the TV, or distraction of completing domestic chores?
If you have hired a strong team, demonstrating that you have trust in them can bring many benefits. Being supportive and understanding of staff’s needs does not go unnoticed and can lead to a more dedicated and loyal workforce.
The key to this is communication. With clear objectives and deadlines, workers still have the same amount of work and time to complete it regardless of where they are based. In addition to this, they can still dial-in to meetings and can be scheduled to attend key face-to-face meetings when they are required.
It may not be the staff that are a primary concern, but data security. In a world where regular high-profile data breaches are an almost daily occurrence, it is no surprise that access to sensitive data is closely monitored. A YouGov poll found that in 48% of cases, concerns over data security were the main reason for not allowing mobile working. At first glance this is understandable, as 89% of data breaches are the result of some form of human error.
The first step is to provide education and training for staff at all levels to ensure that unnecessary risks such as using weak passwords or connecting to unsecured networks are avoided. Staff using their own devices should also agree to a “bring your own device” (BYOD) policy. This includes an agreement to ensure that any device connecting to the company data is using updated antivirus software, and connecting through a VPN.
By treating security as a daily issue that is the responsibility of every user, not just the IT team, the major concerns about mobile working from a security perspective can be significantly reduced. With the concerns managed, the wide-reaching benefits can become the focus.
Wellbeing and productivity
Concerns about trust are not something that goes unnoticed by staff. In many cases, those who work from home often feel the need to compensate, often working harder and for longer than if they were in the office. There are also reduced rates of absenteeism, which can see marked improvement thanks to reduced stress and improved health.
Offering this flexibility can also greatly benefit staff with disabilities, childcare concerns or other issues that might otherwise interfere with their happiness and focus at work.
It is also important to remember that mobile working doesn’t have to mean your entire team works from home every day. While traditional 9-5 hours remain common, offering flexibility within this can be of great benefit to workers. For example, those who need to commute a long distance can find this process draining and frustrating.
Allowing remote working, even just for one or two days a week, can allow staff to begin their days fresher and in a better mindset, improving performance and productivity as well as personal wellbeing.
Rather than holding on to the concept of a traditional, insular office, mobile working offers the opportunity for your company to reach beyond previous physical limitations. Without the need for local workers, companies can look beyond regional boundaries, hiring the best of talents from further afield. With 75% of US millennials preferring the option of mobile working, it can even be a useful tool when looking to secure young talent.
In the past, workers attending a meeting outside the office would likely be out of action for the day, but with access to email and documents on their personal devices, train journeys and commuting can become more productive, keeping communication with the team back in the office up-to-date.
Executed correctly, mobile working can have huge benefits for staff and the wider company. But it is a system that requires trust in the workforce. With regular communication via phone, email or video calls and a clear understanding of what is expected in terms of personal responsibility and project deadlines, mobile working will not only improve the health and wellbeing of staff, but save the company money while boosting productivity.
About the Author
Terry Hearn is a researcher and copywriter, working for a number of international cyber security brands. His professional work covers topics from consumer tech to business data protection, and outside of the office he sidelines in covering the latest sporting news.