This post is sponsored by Samsung Business. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Say you’re in an unfamiliar town, and you’re craving sushi. You whip out your phone and type—or simply say—“sushi restaurants nearby.” Before you can blink an eye, you have a host of highly rated restaurants all within three miles of your current (unfamiliar) location.
In this age of mobility, we have access to information almost anywhere and at any time. With more companies and coffee shops offering free Wi-Fi, more phones with mobile hotspots, and the rise of 4G LTE speed, we seem to have the world at our fingertips.
And many businesses are taking advantage of this opportunity. A report by Forrester on 2013 Mobile Workforce Adoption Trends noted that 29 percent of the global workforce was mobile. Today, 96.2 million people work using mobile, and according to International Data Corporation (IDC), “…the U.S. mobile worker population will grow at a steady rate over the next five years…to 105.4 million mobile workers in 2020. By the end of the forecast period, IDC expects mobile workers will account for nearly three quarters (72.3%) of the total U.S. workforce.”
Those are impressive numbers. And it seems to me—though there are numerous challenges—the advantages of adopting a mobile workforce far outweigh the potential risks. Granting employees the ability to work anywhere can not only make them feel empowered, it can increase productivity.
Here are five ways I think the age of mobility is empowering the workforce:
- Work from anywhere. According to recent studies, when employees are allowed to work outside the office, their productivity increases. Employees can better control an out of office environment. They don’t have to commute, allowing them to start earlier and work later. And if they are sick, yet pressed with urgent deadlines, they can curl up in their PJs, take their cold meds, access the company dashboard, and not infect the rest of their colleagues. Employees may also feel less stressed on vacation—and, for some type-A types, more apt to take a vacation—if they can check emails or put in a few hours of work.
Even if teamwork is required, the development of teleconferencing and the ability to be constantly connected can make working together—without physically being together—painless.
- Hire the best talent regardless of location. Being location independent means that a company can hire the best talent, no matter where they live. There may be a great brand manager in Wisconsin that would fit perfectly at your New York City marketing company. But he marked “unwilling to relocate” on his application. No worries, bring him onboard.
The talent pool becomes much larger when there is no set place an employee has to be every day. By broadening their search, companies can recruit from the best areas and find employees that are excellent for the job, and fit the company culture.
- Business hours are when you are most productive. Not everyone is most productive—and not everyone wants to work—between 9 and 5. Some people like to get up early and hit the keys. Others may be night owls. Having remote workers increases productivity because it allows employees to work when they are comfortable working (within reason, of course).
Time constraints and commitments are issues in a structured work environment. If employees have to pick up their kids from school or get an oil change, they have to fit it into their work hours, often leaving during the day, then returning hours later due to the commute. Having an open ended schedule allows workers to have some flex “work-life” balance, without sacrificing production time.
- Research and information gathering on-demand. Tablets, phones, laptops, and even watches allow us access to vast resources at any given place or time. Academic journals, studies, news stories, even personal blogs are just some of the items we can glean knowledge from on the internet.
With access to these resources on-demand, materials can be gathered for company reports or meetings quickly and easily. If an employee is on vacation and her manager needs reports right now for a presentation, she can pull them up on her phone and send them without jumping through hoops.
- Powerful trust building. There are risks that come with allowing workers to work remotely. One of which is when the employee can’t be productive with an unstructured schedule. There may be distractions at home, or the temptation to kick back and Netflix all day may be too much. If an employee does successfully work from home, he or she may develop a deeper level of trust with the company.
I understand why executives or middle management would be nervous about allowing employees to work from home. But if they can find employees that have a high level of personal responsibility and devotion to their work, they may find that it increases productivity and employee satisfaction.
Management should be selective during hiring, and narrow down their choices based on these skills. This may take more time, but both the integrity of the workforce and the relationship between an employee and a company will be improved.
With the development of technology and the pervasiveness of mobile devices, I can only imagine the mobile workforce getting bigger and stronger. While not every company—or every employee—can function while embracing the “mobile workforce” trend, those that can may see their business transformed as a result. Aligning business strategy with workforce mobility may drive productivity and open doors to growth opportunities—and isn’t that what empowering your workforce is all about?
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