Like those employing field engineers or on-site consultants, some industries have no choice but to support mobile working. Others still have a choice about allowing remote working, but possibly not for much longer.
Because of the coronavirus, thousands of businesses were forced to transition to remote work arrangements. In April 2020, 49.2 per cent of UK employees worked from home due to stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures.
The Future of Remote Work
It seems like mobile working is here to stay. Experts predict that many companies will employ a hybrid office-home work model even after the pandemic has passed. Slack’s Remote Employee Experience Index showed that workers prefer a flexible arrangement to split their workweek between the office and their homes.
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. However, attitudes towards work are changing, and candidates are increasingly choosing roles that allow them to work from home.
The study by Slack also revealed that work-from-home employees reported lower stress and anxiety levels, better work-life balance and higher job satisfaction. They’re also much more efficient and productive when they’re working remotely. This means that companies also have something to gain from deploying remote work positions.
Understandably, some companies are nervous about this change. It’s difficult to manage and direct your employees when you can’t see them. Plus, how do you encourage teamwork and collaboration 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 with the suitable systems and tools in place, you can resolve these issues to make sure your mobile teams remain productive even when they don’t meet every day of the week.
Gamma shares the three pillars of effective remote workforce management, helping you take charge of a distributed staff that continues to deliver value for customers and your business.
You need strong, efficient digital structures to support a scattered workforce. Technology enables the two keys to manage remote teams: communications and collaboration.
Provide your employees with tools that allow them to communicate seamlessly. Look at how individuals and teams naturally communicate in the office and then figure out how to replicate it digitally.
For instance, if your teams hold quick huddles every day, make sure they can continue having those meetings even when they’re not together. This means giving your employees access to web conferencing tools as well as gadgets they need, including headsets and microphones.
If your sales team frequently makes and takes international calls, they have to do those from their home without incurring huge phone bills. One great solution is cloud-hosted PBX. Cloud telephony allows complete mobility for remote employees, allowing them to connect to the company switchboard using a handset in their home office – or even a mobile app.
Team projects would go more smoothly when you leverage the right tools and technology. When your employees are scattered, it isn’t easy to track who’s in charge of what, what the next step is, or how far along everyone is on the project.
Luckily, you can quickly solve these problems with project management tools. Programs like Trello, Productboard and Airtable are great for documenting, consolidating and prioritising mini-milestones in projects. Team members can leverage these tools to make sure they execute every deliverable.
Cloud storage is also vital to mobile workforce management. This allows employees to upload or access any data they need, ensuring the information available to anyone is constantly updated and accurate. Cloud storages also allow simultaneous editing so that multiple people can work on a task simultaneously.
Unified Communications and Collaboration
When you’re using various communications and collaboration tools at once, merging them into one infrastructure can make processes even more efficient. Unified communications and collaboration (UCC) integrate comms and collaboration tools into a single interface, allowing you to switch seamlessly between channels and apps.
The benefits of unified communications are wide-ranging. UCC brings together remote capabilities, including audio calls, video calls, conferencing and instant messaging. This integration level ensures that your employees can communicate with each other and with clients on the most convenient platform.
Unified communications and collaboration solutions also combine apps with core productivity functions like calendars, email and files. Your employees can access almost everything they need for work through the unified platform, whether they’re 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.
UCC technology has the added advantage of collecting analytics about how the platform is used, allowing managers to measure their team members’ productivity and performance.
Additionally, unified communications and collaboration platforms make an effective disaster recovery plan. The technology ensures that your departments stay connected in times of crises.
One of the sure-fire ways of boosting mobile workforce productivity is by simplifying your processes. Confront employees with an unfamiliar and complex IT experience, and you can expect a corresponding drop in output.
As you investigate remote working provisions, look at the tools and systems your employees often use. Then, design your remote work processes around these systems.
Consolidating and standardising processes and software will also help in-house employees be more effective. Get rid of redundant programs that may cause miscommunication and confusion. Standardising your software also helps 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. It also helps reduce your expenses on annual licensing, administrative overheads and maintenance and support as well.
One of the most significant barriers to new technology adoption is the lack of training. When you’re introducing new technology to your employees, give them time to learn the software. Beyond standardising the platforms that everyone uses, provide your employees with the necessary training and tools that would allow them to maximise their usage of the software you chose.
Over time, employees develop lousy working habits, defaulting to specific tools because they are ‘easier’ – even if they come at the cost of productivity and profitability. Remote workers may decide to make customer calls directly from their mobile because it involves fewer taps, for instance. Although seemingly easier for the remote worker, your business loses out on the additional analytics and recorded data when using 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 move into the field, your workers will take the same habits and practices to deliver a consistent experience for your customers.
The nature of work is changing. Whether you’re looking to reduce office costs by building a remote workforce or hoping to shift to a project-based production model that uses a distributed network of contractors, your business can gain a wealth of benefits from remote working.
Yes, there are barriers to remote working – but you can overcome them when you focus on the three pillars of successful mobile workforce management. Implement effective strategies and invest in the right technology to enable your team to stay motivated, engaged and productive.