Your office used to be a physical location where you did all of your work. Your office held your computer and all of your files. Today, thanks to the growing popularity of the mobile workforce, your office is wherever you have an Internet connection.
A mobile workforce gives employees the ability to decide when and where they want to work, thanks largely to mobile devices. Smart phones, high-speed Internet connections, tablets and video conferencing are just a few of the tools that allow employees to work anywhere, anytime. A mobile workforce is not yet the norm for all companies but its popularity is quickly growing. A Mashable.com article reported that three in five workers say that they do not need to be at the office to be productive. Almost 78 percent of smart phone owners access email on their phones, a 36 percent increase since 2009. Nearly 65 percent of mobile workers use tablets.
There is no question that a mobile workforce is shaping up to be the next big trend in HR. But the question of its effects on employee productivity are still uncertain. Does working wherever, whenever make us more productive? If so, by how much? Here are three important pros and cons to consider when answering these questions for your organization:
The Pros of a Mobile Workforce
1. Ability to work from home
Working from home makes employees happier and more productive. A Brown University survey found a 12 percent increase in performance during a study of call center employees who worked from home. Working from home also lets employees avoid a grueling commute. A work-from-home policy is simple to implement. Employees just need an Internet connection for access to company emails and files from their computers. No advanced preparation needed.
2. Lower real estate costs
Due to the growing popularity of working from alternate locations, 60 percent of assigned desks are empty during the average work day. Many companies are responding to this phenomenon by downsizing their office spaces. Twenty years ago, the average office space was 250 square feet per employee. Today, it is 150 square feet. Employers realize that with more employees able to work productively from home, the need for a spacious office space is not as necessary.
3. Less wasted time
We carry our smart phones with us everywhere. Thanks to Wi-Fi and data plans, we can use them to work during waiting periods at airports or on airplanes. Smart phones and tablets have made once useless periods of idle time prime moments to respond to emails and make work calls. One of the most annoying feelings for a busy professional is sitting in an airport with many things to do but without the resources to do them. Thanks to mobile devices, tasks can be completed wherever, without having to wait until you get back to the office.
The Cons of a Mobile Workforce
We can access our email with so many devices that it feels natural to respond to emails at any time, even when you have technically stopped working for the day. It seems harmless, but by doing so, you fail to establish a boundary of when you are working and when you are not working. This invites work-related emails and phone calls into all areas of your personal life. If you answer an email at midnight, the expectation from then on is that you will always respond immediately to emails. This expectation can destroy your work-life balance.
2. Poor choice of alternate work locations
Mobile devices have made a variety of locations hotspots for working, including coffee shops and hotel lobbies. Some employees find public places much too noisy for getting any work done. But if your co-workers or team members agree to meet there to work, it is difficult to say no. Internet connections at public places can also be unsecure, exposing private business information to anyone using the public network.
3. Disconnect from company culture
A mobile workforce is excellent in many ways, but when it comes to establishing a strong company culture, it is not a good tool. A central office environment creates an avenue for employees to get to know one another and identify with the company culture. Working from home cannot provide those benefits, no matter how many video conferences you hold.
There is no right or wrong answer when deciding if you should embrace a mobile workforce at your organization. You have to weigh the benefits and disadvantages with respect to your business goals. But with a growing number of technologies that make it possible, it can definitely be a viable option.
Do you think that a mobile workforce has positive or negative effects on employee productivity?