Maintaining Productivity While Managing a Mobile Workforce
Some industries – like those employing field engineers or on-site consultants – have no choice but to support mobile working. Others still have a choice about providing remote working, but possibly not at the moment.
Virtually any employee has the right to request flexible working provisions, including working from home and your business is legally bound to consider each request. Attitudes towards work are changing however, and candidates are increasingly choosing roles that allow them to work from home.
Understandably, some firms are nervous about this change. You can’t see your remote employees, so how do you know they are working? And how do you build a team that works closely together when some members are in a completely different physical place? How do you give them access to the systems and data they need to do their jobs? What is the wider impact of having people based outside the office?
These are all legitimate concerns. But they can also be addressed to help you build a distributed workforce that delivers value for customers and your business.
Thanks to broadband connectivity and the Internet, it is now much easier to enable access to corporate IT systems. Many of the applications you use are probably already hosted in the cloud, for instance. Once issued with a user name and password, employees can access and use these systems from anywhere in the world, allowing them to be productive anywhere in the world.
The same is true of your internal communications systems, like telephone and instant messaging. VoIP telecoms are typically accessible anywhere, allowing your remote employees to connect to the company switchboard using a handset in their home office – or even a mobile app.
Indeed, Unified Communications brings together telecoms with core productivity tools like calendars, email and files. Almost everything needed to work can be accessed from a single interface at home or in the office. Your workers can accept incoming client calls or join an inter-office video conference call with just a few mouse clicks.
The Unified Communications approach has the added advantage of collecting analytics about how the platform is used. As well as ‘presence’ indicators that show who is online and available, analytics allow managers to report on the activities employees have been engaged on and ensure they’re being as productive as expected.
Inconsistency is the enemy of productivity. Confront employees with an unfamiliar IT experience and you can expect a corresponding drop in output.
As you investigate remote working provisions you should also take a look at the tools and systems used by employees. Consolidating and standardising processes and software will help in-house employees be more effective – and help to reduce your annual licensing and maintenance bills. Ideally you’re looking to create a platform that works in the same way for workers in the office or out in the field.
Standardisation ensures that your employees really can work anywhere, permanently or temporarily. You will also find that administrative overheads and cost of support reduce too.
The best tools in the world are useless if your people don’t know how to use them. Beyond standardising the platform that everyone uses, you also need to ensure that staff are properly trained to get the most from the available tools.
Over time employees develop bad working habits, defaulting to certain tools because they are “easier” – even if they come at the cost of productivity and profitability. Remote workers may decide to make customer calls direct from their mobile because it’s a few less taps, for instance. Although seemingly easier for the remote worker, your business loses out on the additional analytics and reporting data that is recorded when they use their Unified Communications app.
Training staff to use the chosen systems will give them the confidence and knowledge they need moving forward. Then, when they make the move into the field, your workers will take the same habits and practices with them delivering a consistent experience for your customers too.
The world of work is definitely changing. Whether you’re looking to reduce office costs by building a remote workforce, or hope to shift to a project-based production model that uses a distributed network of contractors, your business needs to take remote working seriously.
Yes, there are barriers to remote working – but they can all be overcome to deliver a better experience to your customers and a stronger profit margin for your business. You can learn more in our free eBook: Creating The Modern Workplace or visit our ROI calculator to further understand the current impact of your technology setup.