The ‘good old days’ of staff clocking in and out and conforming to strict working hours is all but gone in those sectors where some flexibility is an option. Nowadays, in part driven by Millennials, who generally have very different expectations of their working life than the generations that went before them, the focus is increasingly on allowing staff to work more flexibly through mobile working.
This flexibility could be related to working hours and location, but also to the devices used for work – many employees choose to use their own personal mobile devices rather than those supplied by their employer. Facilitating mobility of work requires technology that permits real-time communication and collaboration and allows workers to access company networks from all devices, regardless of location.
What’s to be gained from mobile working?
There are many potential benefits to allowing flexible working practices and mobile working, not least:
- enhanced productivity – many people work more effectively when they have the freedom to decide how and when they work;
- happier staff who feel trusted, empowered and valued (and are, therefore, more likely to show commitment);
- improved work-life balance – fixed working hours and workspaces might not be to everyone’s liking, often because they see work as one of a few important commitments in their lives (important, yes, but perhaps not the be-all and end-all). But that’s not to say that they don’t work extremely productively when given the chance to align their work with their other commitments;
- the ability to attract better staff – if people are placing more value on the opportunity to work how and when they want, then it stands to reason that the offer of flexibility is likely to attract more (and better) staff;
- cost savings – if employees don’t always have to be present in a workplace, and many are using their own personal mobile devices for work, there are clear cost savings to be made in terms of office space and equipment costs.
But it can’t be all roses. What are the potential pitfalls?
Like all good things (which, sadly, don’t simply come to those who wait), establishing effective mobile working arrangements isn’t entirely without its challenges, for example:
- Keeping track of remote workers’ productivity and performance. It’s more difficult to ‘supervise’ staff who aren’t working from a fixed workplace day after day, so a cultural shift is required away from the notion that staff are only working if they are visible and physically present, and towards the measurement of performance through outputs.
- Ensuring that the right policies are in place to manage staff despite their physical distance from the workplace.
- Sustaining employee engagement with the ‘mother ship’ for those who are rarely in the main workplace and are at risk of becoming disconnected from the rest of the organisation.
- Deciding on parameters for IT support of devices and systems. Are employees’ devices up to the job, and is there a risk that employees might be merging work and personal activities, which could pose security threats?
Microsoft technology (and Stripe OLT) save the day …
It’s clear that there’s more to mobile working than simply pushing employees out to sea and expecting them to get on with it – companies that want to facilitate technical mobility must ensure that the right technology is in place to facilitate seamless collaboration and information-sharing, whilst ensuring that staff are properly managed and that devices are up-to-date and secure.
Every situation is different, of course, so we work with our clients to develop a mobile device use policy that’s tailored to their needs, taking into account security, platforms, devices and management tools. Broadly-speaking, a combination of the following needs to be in place to facilitate successful mobile working:
- reliable Internet access;
- mobile devices that are protected through robust security policies;
- the ability to share data and files with other team members and create a shared workspace without compromising data security (e.g. a cloud solution);
- web and videoconferencing software to facilitate meetings and discussions between team members, wherever they may be located;
- collaboration tools allowing disparate team members to communicate with each other through a shared channel;
- project management tools to track ongoing tasks, activities, to-do lists and calendars, and allow team members to chat, collaborate and track project workflows;
- employee engagement tools allowing a continuous cycle of feedback between employees and managers;
- performance management tools to allow for seamless ongoing performance monitoring;
- a clear policy on IT support and employees’ responsibilities in terms of security.
Microsoft offers a suite of services that allow companies to take a ‘cloud first’ approach allowing employees to work from anywhere, on any of their devices, whilst achieving the same technology experience they would get if they were working in the office:
- Office 365 – allow employees to access files and emails whenever and wherever they need them, and from all their devices.
- Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) – Microsoft’s cloud-based identity and access management service that allows employees to sign in and access resources in internal (e.g. corporate networks and intranets) and external (e.g. Office 365) resources.
- Microsoft Intune – a cloud-based mobile device management solution.
- SharePoint – a platform that allows users to create, store and share content on the web.
- Microsoft Azure – a cloud computing service for building, testing, deploying, and managing applications and services through Microsoft-managed data centres.
- Skype for Business – instant messaging, audio and video calls for collaboration between team members.
- Microsoft Teams – a cloud-based workspace for teamwork (instant chat and channels for communication and collaboration).
It’s now easier than ever to empower and secure your mobile workforce – technologies like Office 360 enable your business to be ‘cloud first’ straight out of the box. Get in touch with one of our Office 365 experts for a tour.