The rapid advances in technology seen in recent years have created so many opportunities for businesses and professionals to benefit from mobile working. With IT moving to the fore, the entire business landscape is rapidly evolving, as organisations adapt working processes and operations to account for the new solutions they have at their disposal.
With a wide array of devices, tools and applications available for employees to use, there are few constraints on where and when people can operate productively and as a result the business benefits of flexible working for employees is becoming increasingly supported. Professionals can use connected laptops, tablets and smartphones to access files, documents and data wherever they are. Aligned with mobile broadband and Wi-Fi connections, these solutions allow workers to create their own virtual office spaces on the move.
This can make a real difference to individual workers, and teams of employees as a whole. Professionals can remain in constant contact with clients and colleagues using a variety of platforms - including voice, email and chat - and respond instantly to situations as they arise. Whether they are in the office, on the road, away on a business trip or even at home, employees can perform effectively, making full use of the working day.
The mobile working revolution
A generation ago, the only mobile devices used by professionals were first generation mobile phones - brick-sized handsets with limited functionality and reliability. If you needed access to your files and documents on the move, it was a case of how much you could fit in your briefcase. For many professionals, productivity was largely tied to a physical presence in the office. This would be where you had access to all your paperwork, landline, computer and other tools - without them there was only so much you could do.
But the advent of connected mobile devices means professionals are able to eliminate much of the 'dead time' in the working day - periods when they are unable to be productive. For instance, when employees are commuting to work, travelling to a meeting or moving between sites, they can still complete tasks via their smartphone or tablet browser.
In the cloud computing age, it is possible to switch seamlessly between devices, meaning users can carry on working on a touchscreen tablet where they left off on your PC in the office. More and more work is being completed online, which means location is - to a large extent - becoming an irrelevant factor as mobile working prevails. So long as professionals have a secure and reliable internet connection, with sufficient bandwidth, they can get on with most jobs that need doing.
With mobile broadband speeds increasing, the range of options for mobile working remotely continues to increase. The ongoing rollout of 4G mobile broadband networks in the UK means professionals can take advantage of super-fast mobile speeds across great swathes of Britain, not merely in the major towns and cities. So if a train is going through the countryside, passengers will still be able to hold an internet connection and make voice calls on their mobile device.
Embracing mobile working
The potential benefits of mobile working are not lost on business leaders, or professionals working on the front line. Employers recognise that by providing their staff with tablets, smartphones and other solutions, or allowing them to use their own personal devices, they can encourage higher productivity rates. Workers are more responsive - they can react to situations as they arise, such as incoming calls or emails from clients.
Access to mobile technology means that - by nature - professionals become more agile and flexible. Potentially they can work from home some days and in the office on others, or work irregular hours according to choice or demand. In the fast-paced, 24/7 world of 21st century commerce, this can be a major advantage for professionals and the organisations they work for.
No wonder then sales of mobile devices continue to soar, as businesses and individual consumers look to take advantage of the latest handsets. Gartner expects to see 38.6 per cent growth in the market for tablet computers in 2014, with 2.7 billion devices shipped globally this year. And fellow IT analyst IDC has predicted 1.2 billion smartphone shipments this year, representing 19.3 per cent growth year-on-year.
According to research conducted by Deloitte in 2013, an estimated 63 per cent of UK professionals now have a smartphone, and 93 per cent have some form of mobile device. Almost half (43 per cent) of those professionals surveyed said their experience of using mobile technology has led them to demand greater mobility in the workplace. Employees are clearly recognising the difference connected solutions can make to their working day, and are eager to fully harness its capabilities.
The Deloitte study revealed that professionals are using mobile devices in a range of situations, in order to complete work tasks. Some 17 per cent said they had worked on a connected device while stood in a queue, while eight per cent had done so on the beach. Another nine per cent claimed to have worked remotely using mobile technology while on their honeymoon. Of those surveyed, 39 per cent thought they could increase their productivity rate by being able to work on the move.
Making the most of mobile working
For organisations, the overall aim of mobile technology investment is to facilitate productive working for as much of the time as possible. Business leaders recognise the need to embrace change, and adapt working processes and operations to capitalise on innovation. With employees able to work effectively on the move, there is a clear opportunity to raise performance levels and output, and also boost service levels and increase customer engagement.
In many instances, employers are utilising mobile technology without the need to make a significant capital investment in new solutions. Many employees are eager to use their own personal smartphones and tablets in the workplace, rather than carry around duplicate devices. This bring your own device (BYOD) trend ensures professionals are using the solutions they know and understand, and means organisations do not have to spend thousands of pounds provisioning corporate devices.
Attracting and retaining employees
Where organisations are willing to accept and promote the use of mobile technology, and give employees greater freedom in the course of their work duties, it can have a positive impact on staff motivation. With employees empowered by web-enabled devices, there is no need for them to work a rigid 9-5 shift at their desk in the office. Depending on the nature of their job and the duties it entails, they may be able to work effectively from any location.
In terms of attracting and retaining staff, this can have clear benefits. Many professionals welcome greater autonomy at work, and the option of operating from home or another location on some days, according to their other commitments and responsibilities. In this sense, mobile working can improve employees' work-life balance, making it easier for them to spend time at home with loved ones, but without impacting on their output in the course of their job.
Providing employers are willing to adapt operational processes, and the way employees are managed, mobile working can offer real advantages. Organisations can build more adaptable, fluid and responsive teams, consisting of employees who are always available and ready to perform. Supported by feature-rich technology which makes their lives easier, professionals may be more motivated to work hard, add value to their organisation, and stay with their employer for the long term.