First trialled by 32,000 AT&T employees back in 1994, the mobile workplace has gone from an innovative 90s experiment to the standard operating model for today’s modern businesses.
According to a recent Swiss study, 70% of people globally work remotely at least one day a week, and 53% do for at least half of the week. These figures are only set to grow. With the rise of business tech such as cloud-based software, BYOD policies and more sophisticated mobile devices, the mobile workforce is predicted to stand at 1.87 billion workers by 2020.
What do we mean by a mobile workforce? A new IBM report states: “A mobile workforce is a group of employees that isn’t bound by a central physical location. Instead, the employees are connected by various types of technology: computers, smartphones and other mobile devices.”
Traditionally, the definition of a mobile workforce was synonymous with ‘work from home’. However, with tech advances such as eSignatures, video conferencing and collaboration applications (Slack, Asana and Google Calendar to name a few), the mobile workplace has expanded and increasingly includes employees that are out in the field - an estate agent signing off a mortgage, a lawyer briefing a client, a medical assistant diagnosing a patient or a sales rep closing a deal.
This agile nature of a modern workforce built on enterprise mobility comes with a long list of benefits. Living in an age of connectivity means customers expect businesses to respond to their queries faster than ever (for scale, the average American spends 5.4 hours a day on their phone). Giving employees the tools to communicate with customers outside of standard office hours leads to greatly improved customer experiences.
Free from commutes and able to fit work around their own habits and commitments, employees are also happier (leading to less sick days and lower turnover) and more productive (a 2016 US study found 91% of remote workers felt they were more productive at home than in an office environment).
With the global remote workforce set to rise, here are a few key mobile workplace trends we can expect to see in the near future.
1. Digital skills will become more specialized
Mobile workers need to demonstrate next level mastery of tech and apps to ensure the mobile workplace model operates effectively. A major trend we expect to develop over the next few years is a shift from a mobile workforce that is digitally literate to a mobile workforce that is highly digitally skilled.
New HR data from Upwork, the world’s largest global freelancing website, revealed that 78% of HR managers expect digital skills to become more specialized within the remote workforce, citing talent shortages as a reason for looking outside traditional recruitment processes.
Alongside roles for web development and digital marketing, emerging job titles such as “Blockchain Developer” (last year’s fastest growing job according to LinkedIn) which can be both difficult to recruit for and are digital in nature, will increasingly make up this highly skilled, remote and flexible workforce.
2. Employees will want to come to work more
Perhaps one of the most surprising mobile workplace trends is whilst remote working increases the happiness and productivity of employees, on the flipside a lack of social stimulation can also cause mobile workers to feel lonely and isolated.
In their 2018 “State of Remote Work” report, social media management platform Buffer found that 21% of remote workers identified loneliness as one of their main day-to-day struggles. Offering employees the best of both online and real life worlds, for instance, encouraging people to come into the office for weekly catch ups or team brainstorming will help counter the isolating effects of a mobile workplace and actually increase employee engagement. According to a Gallup poll of 9,917 US workers, employees who divided up their week between working remotely and working in the office were more engaged and fulfilled compared to those who worked either entirely remote or from the office.
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3. The mobile workforce will find new offices
Switching their living rooms and local cafes for well-designed, sociable and perk-based coworking spaces, remote workers will continue to drive the booming global market value of flexible workspaces.
With a rise in competition in this sector, expect mobile workplaces to become a whole lot cooler and more appealing than a traditional office. For instance, WeWork is millenial in its design with free beer taps, weekly networking events disguised as happy hour, access to global offices and flexible month-by-month membership. It has become the year’s second largest initial public offering (placing just behind Uber) and is valued at a staggering $47 billion.
Another mobile workplace trend set to occur over the next few years is the diversification of the coworking space, with businesses catering to the different needs of the modern mobile workforce. The female coworking collective The Wing recently received $75 million to expand its offices globally, spreading its USP of supporting female remote workers with onsite childcare, female mentorship, well-designed nursing rooms and a roster of celebrity speakers ranging from Jessica Alba to Meryl Streep.
4. Security will be a main focus in the mobile workplace
A lethal mix of hefty GDPR fines, increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks and high profile data breaches have combined to ensure security is one of the top enterprise tech trends of 2019.
With remote workers using their own devices and accessing varying WIFI sources, this trend of heightened security efforts will naturally also apply to the mobile workforce - particularly as recent surveys have cited 38% of remote workers at SMEs do not have the tech or knowledge to work securely.
Education around data protection and online behavior will become a major mobile workplace strategy to manage this issue, and we’ll see a stronger focus on the level
of security provided by an enterprise’s software services. Luckily, due to a combination of the highest industry regulations and technical advancements, keeping data private and secure is what leading SaaS providers do best in today’s market.
An example of this is Templafy, hosted on Microsoft’s Azure, which is rigorously and routinely tested, with its cloud services closely monitored and includes more than 20 cloud computing related security compliance certificates (including ISO 27001 and 27801). Like many SaaS platforms, it means Templafy often provides device managers with a level of security that their businesses themselves simply could not deliver.
Security plug-ins will also become more advanced. Take Office 365: combining One Office 365 Enterprise Mobility and Azure Information Protection, one of Office’s new Artificial Intelligence features uses behavior and pattern recognition to safeguard company data. If an employee is sending a document containing personal information or sensitive data as an attachment, Office alerts the user of a potential risk and suggests a more secure way of getting the data to the recipient (such as by using SharePoint or OneDrive).
5. Arming mobile workforces with the right tech will be key
The same US study that found 91% of remote workers felt more productive working outside an office environment also found that over half of those surveyed couldn’t access the company assets they needed via remote access, and a further 68% wasted time working on old versions of documents. This barrier to information is costly: in terms of employee productivity, each year around $10,000 is wasted on the mismanagement of digital assets.
With enterprises increasingly moving their workplace online, businesses will arm their employees with mobile workforce solutions to counter this - namely providing them with the tools they need to boost productivity. Platforms enabling workflow automation, that cut the time usually spent on manual tasks, will allow employees to carry out higher value work. For instance, Templafy with its dynamic templates, deep integration with Digital asset management (DAM) tools like Bynder and Brandworkz, and centralised asset library, can cut content creation processes by up to 50%, eliminating time spent hunting for lost documents, sourcing brand assets or checking brand compliance via the latest style guide. Plus, being cloud-hosted, Templafy is accessible 24/7 from any location and device.
Ensuring employees have the right tech to get their work done also translates into increased engagement, according to Gallup’s “State of the Global Workforce” report. The same report found that only 15% of employees are actively engaging, costing businesses $7 trillion in productivity. Investing in the right tools for your mobile workforce clearly pays.
Over 1.5 million employees are using Templafy to optimise remote working and boost their productivity. We’d love to show you how our cloud-hosted services can benefit your mobile workforce - get in touch for a personalized free demo to find out more.