How SMEs can prepare for a mobile workforce

The increased affordability of personal technology combined with a changing work environment has contributed to SMEs becoming more mobile friendly than ever before. According to IDC, 73% of the workforce will be mobile by 2020.

While some areas of the workforce have always been ‘mobile’ – manufacturing, construction, and healthcare – typical roles confined to an office now have the option to engage in workplace flexibility. With most people today having their own or access to smart devices, workers can communicate, perform tasks, and check-in with their employer and work colleagues from almost any location on earth.

With a mobile friendly workforce, employees and contractors can set up virtual offices on the go, and report in and collaborate seamlessly using the available technology. This not only helps business owners better manage and minimise the risks associated with a work force on the move, but also acts as an incentive to attract new talent to your company.

So, to take advantage of the mobile workforce, attract new talent, and extend you reach nationally and internationally, SMEs must develop an associated infrastructure. However, redesigning a workplace structure doesn’t come without its challenges. These are the five critical themes all business leaders need to consider before enabling a mobile workforce:

  1. Communication, Communication, Communication

For a mobile workforce to be successful, communications technology is a must. Solving the logistical issues of having remote teams and or contractors is the first step in the shift to becoming a mobile workplace. Cloud-based tools is the choice for many when it comes to solving logistical challenges. Cloud-based technology enables workers to access data, collaborate and connect with team members, and even report back to management while on the move.

  1. The Evolution of Management

Managing a mobile or global team is fast becoming a prerequisite of the job, and one that should form part of management training processes – while those already in senior positions need to evolve to suit the new structure. Building trust is the number one concern for those managing a virtual team. But this has to go two ways. Instilling values of accountability in the team will in turn enable management to trust the work is being completed to a high standard. Cloud-based reporting tools help to create transparency in this area, while some mobile workforce technology offers gamification that can be used to incentivise staff.

  1. Out of sight does not equal out of mind:

Knowing where workers are at any point in time and if they are safe is a significant problem for organisations globally. With the increase in worker mobility and associated travel accidents, personal attacks, missing persons, terrorism and global catastrophes, businesses have a duty of care not only to their workers, but to their workers’ families.

With less control over where and when our staff are working, performance (or output) based management becomes critical. There are now some great options for staying connected and up-to-date on work and work milestones, including travel movements.

  1. Structure the use of BYO devices:

Around 80 per cent of Australians currently own a smartphone and that number is expected to further increase. SMEs can often allow employees to use their personal devices for work purposes, such as making phone calls, perhaps with a reimbursement plan in place or an agreement that the employee will add this into their personal tax expenses.

With a mobile workforce, smart devices will prove integral to the plan, so think about adding more structure around the responsibility of payment and upkeep of these devices. You may wish to consider replacing BYO devices with a company-owned product should sensitive work-related data need to be accessed and stored on the device.

  1. Work within the letter and the spirit of the law:

As an employer, you are responsible for workplace safety wherever that “workplace” may be. Increasingly, this obligation is now law. Under Australia’s harmonised WHS laws, employers are required to manage risks to the health and safety of remote or isolated work and implement control measures that include effective communication with remote and isolated workers.

As an SME employer, it is essential to stay up-to-date with any legal or compliance issues regarding your workplace team. Regardless of your legal obligations, best-practice employers are always looking out for their team members’ safety and wellbeing on the job.