On the Move and Away from the Office: Mobile Workforce on the Increase

In the 1960s, it would not have been out of line to assume that a mobile worker was one of those nifty waitresses on roller-skates that brought your hamburger and cola right to your car. Fast forward a few decades, mix in some truly amazing technological advances along with pretty significant societal changes, and the definition of mobile worker can range anywhere from utility meter readers, to office workers who never go to "the office" or individuals with home-based businesses. Perhaps the simplest definition applicable in 2010 is someone who does not have one fixed place of work but is linked to a central base by phone and usually other technology.

According to an International Data Corporation (IDC) study released in February, the world's mobile worker population will pass the one billion mark by the end of this year. By 2013, mobile workers will represent nearly 35% of the worldwide workforce! Why do we do it? A quick answer is because we can. Technology allows us to work more flexibly and independently, providing us with more work-life balance options.

For companies, the benefits of having a mobile workforce can include attracting and retaining employees, increasing nimbleness in order to meet deadlines and reducing occupancy costs. There are also cost savings and efficiencies to be gained from careful selection of technology options. Primus Hosted PBX, for instance, is a scalable business hosted phone system that you pay for as a monthly service. Everything - core infrastructure, equipment and maintenance - is taken care of with minimal upfront investment. Having such a system in place allows employees to literally work from anywhere, thus eliminating the impact of staff being away from their traditional desks. Not only is this an ideal solution for the everyday mobile workforce, but it can also a be part of a contingency plan for those unexpected mobile workers who need to work from home due to an illness or bad weather.

Can your business become more mobile?
There are many good reasons for any sized company to increase its mobile capability. But there are also some caveats. Surveys have shown that workers tend to be less security-oriented when outside of the office environment. Risky activities include: allowing access to company computers by non-employees; using company technology for personal use; accessing work files with non- secure devices; even opening suspicious emails and email attachments. Mobile workers need to remember to maintain a sense of diligence.

Actually, numerous changes to work and management style are likely needed - which can be quite challenging - with a shift to non-office-based work. If you're a detail-oriented entrepreneur type, day-to-day oversight of tasks is a different kettle of fish with remote workers. While it may be more difficult to know who is doing what at a particular moment, wouldn't it be great to spend more time on the important stuff than the minutiae? A shift in mindset can go a long way towards freeing you to grow your business.

And it might seem counterintuitive, but face-to-face contact can increase with mobility. Just ask a mobile salesperson if they are available for face time with customers.

The trick is to use technology to your advantage. The time and cost savings inherent in teleconferencing or webconferencing with people from different locations, especially customers and suppliers or sub-contractors, can be invaluable to your business. You can even make presentations remotely. Conducting webinars is a growing trend to attract new business. If you make presentations on a regular basis, then it's a natural for you.

Whatever your business, whether you are home based, have a larger operation, or spend your days on the road, it's clear that the future is on the move. Remember to be patient with yourself and with others while you sort out the implications and opportunities of mobile working for your business in order to gain the freedom and flexibility it can bring. And of course, take advantage of technology. Primus offers shared web hosting, and numerous managed services that offer business owners an alternative to managing their own infrastructure. This will mean more time for you to focus on the things you do best.