Preparing for the Future of a Mobile Workforce

Much like VHS tapes and landline phones, the 9-to-5, Monday-through-Friday workweek is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Thanks to the proliferation of high-speed Wifi, the rise of BYOD (bring-your-own-device) workplaces, and the ability to instantly share documents via the cloud, the parameters of the traditional workweek are evolving—to the benefit of employees and employers alike.

There are countless reasons why workers would prefer not to be chained to their desk for eight (or more) hours straight, five days a week. For one, a recent Pew Research study found that the number of households with two working parents has risen 50 percent since 1970, with more than a third of those having trouble balancing work and family time. Experts have also begun to document the wide range of health issues that result from sitting for such long periods of time. And as many of us know, not everyone is a morning person—a person’s hours of prime productivity may not align with the traditional 9-to-5 day.

In a competitive job market, employers might simply say, “tough luck,” as other candidates would be willing to sacrifice their health and personal time for the ideal job. Yet slouching in front of a computer screen for hours on end actually lowers worker productivity, as well as morale. Companies need to attract the most talented employees to thrive, and talented workers tend to flock to companies with flexible work hours. If the reflection and relaxation of a 1 p.m. yoga class can help a worker produce better results later in the day, why prevent her from doing so?

These factors have driven employers to embrace a more mobile workforce, supported by the BYOD movement. Still, challenges remain for those enterprises looking to pioneer a 21st century work environment. Data security remains a top concern of BYOD, and many managers prefer to monitor their employees in-person in order to guarantee productivity. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to mitigate the risks of implementing a flexible workweek while maximizing the benefits of a happier, more productive workforce.

1. Operate Through Multiple Avenues of Communication

For an employee who wishes to have a work-from-home day each week, set up a morning call to discuss their agenda and what they plan to accomplish by the end of the day. Setting expectations and deadlines ensures that workers don’t get distracted—and lose productivity—while working from home or at a coffee shop. It doesn’t stop there, though. Workforce communication tools such as Slack, Skype and Yammer are great for answering quick, one-off questions as well as checking on the progress of a project. They also allow employees to feel more connected to the office environment and their fellow coworkers. 

2. Implement a BYOD Security Program

Even if you trust that your employees will complete their work on their own time, you should still be aware of the security risks of allowing employees to work off of their personal devices. It’s important that IT professionals and management implement a BYOD program that includes Mobile Device Management (MDM) so that IT can access any device used on your business network. You must also educate employees on the risks of BYOD and how the rules of your program protect sensitive data, while assisting them in managing device and application settings. Of course, it’s always a best practice to have strong passwords and to encrypt sensitive data that gets shared through BYOD. 

3. Invest in Office Technology that Supports BYOD

Letting employees work off of their own devices can save your organization a great deal of money on hardware. Yet in order to create a workplace that easily allows everyone to work flexible hours, it’s best to invest those savings back into equipment and programs that facilitate BYOD. For example, invest in a set of docking stations so that workers can connect their laptops to additional monitors, speakers and other hardware while in the office. Docked laptops increase worker productivity by increasing the speed in which they can complete tasks across multiple programs. And if you haven’t already, it’s time to invest in a secure and powerful cloud storage service. These give mobile employees the ability to create, share and store important documents from just about anywhere. Cloud storage has the added benefit of further reducing costs on expensive location-based servers that require constant maintenance.

Any sizable change in company policy is going to come with risks as well as rewards. In terms of creating an environment that’s compatible with flexible working hours and BYOD, the investment is well worth the payoff. Rather than resist the future of a mobile workforce, you can position your organization as an innovator while attracting and retaining the most talented, happy workers.