Technology expands our world, but the size of it is no bigger than a five inch screen.Chances are you’re currently reading this article on your mobile device, while en route to a meeting, grabbing a bite to eat, or sneakily glancing down when you should be watching your kids excel at their swimming lesson (watch me daaaaadddddd). Our private and personal lines are becoming increasingly blurred. Mobility and cloud-based technology make it so easy, speedy and flexible to access information at any time of the day from any location as long as there’s phone reception. Adding to this, is that the technology has become cheap and ubiquitous, making it accessible and simple for SMEs to implement.
However, if SMEs want assurance that they are leveraging the positives that mobile technology has to offer, it’s not simply enough to get everyone a device, sign them all up for a teleconferencing app and expect them to start working. These technologies are changing the shape of the workplace. They are challenging long-held assumptions, such as the notion that work only gets done in the office, as well as bringing issues like compliance, security and expectation to the fore. Today we look at how mobility is changing the workforce and how business owners can be strategic and thoughtful in implementing policies and mobile technology so that they have happier, more productive staff, and a flourishing, scalable and forward-thinking organisation.
How to effectively implement telecommuting
One way mobile technology is reshaping the office is by expanding its walls. Technology allows workers to do their job from wherever they can lay their tablet. And contrary to popular belief that you have a workforce who slack off en masse when they are at home, studies have indicated that it allows workers to be more productive. It’s also got many benefits for the employer, being able to recruit from a much wider talent pool, higher retention rates and lower overhead costs.
One company that heavily promotes a telecommuting culture is Basecamp. Founder Jason Fried gave an inspiring TED Talk Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work outlining why about the office environment isn’t conducive to the best work:
He frames his discussion with a question he often asks his employees: ‘Where do you go when you really need to get something done?’
He elaborates that while the answers vary, there’s one place that’s not often mentioned:
‘I'll hear things like, the porch, the deck, the kitchen. I'll hear things like an extra room in the house, the basement, the coffee shop, the library. And then you'll hear things like the train, a plane, a car — so, the commute. And then you'll hear people say, "Well, it doesn't really matter where I am, as long as it's early in the morning or late at night or on the weekends." You almost never hear someone say, "The office." But businesses are spending all this money on this place called the office, and they're making people go to it all the time, yet people don't do work in the office.’
The solution, he argues is to think differently about how your employees are spending time. Instead of being preoccupied with them going on Facebook or Twitter (what he terms the modern day equivalent of a smoko), the real time wasters are the M&Ms — managers and meetings. By reducing these two elements, rather than micromanaging your staff, you will empower your staff to be able to have space and time to concentrate mindfully on their work as well. This leads to more creative ideas, higher standards, more fulfilled employees and better all-round productivity.
Business News Daily says that if you want to truly create a telecommuting policy that has a positive impact, you need to make sure that you clearly outline the expectations you have of your employees. It suggests (depending on the needs of the business) the policy could incorporate:
- Working hours
- Describe who is eligible to telecommute
- Put in accountability measures such as weekly deliverables, or invest in a time tracking system
- Designate an accepted way of that your employees can communicate with each other when not in the office
- Think about ways that you can combat disengagement and feelings of isolation by having weekly/monthly face-to-face meetings.
They also suggest that businesses need to be proactive in making sure that if an employee is working remotely that they aren’t burning themselves out, because they’ve found that employees who work from home tend to work longer hours, rather than the other way around.
Bring Your Own Device
Like telecommuting, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is a development that has drawn significant commentary. BYOD might have the cheery connotations of a summertime BBQ, but the issue raises important questions of employee productivity and technological intuitiveness versus the limitations, compliance, risk and security. On one hand a BYOD approach is very appealing for the user and the business. As PC World found:
‘Users have the laptops and smartphones they have for a reason – those are the devices they prefer, and they like them so much they invested their hard-earned money in them. Of course they’d rather use the devices they love rather than being stuck with laptops and mobile devices that are selected and issued by the IT department.’
And it’s great for the business too. There is an expectation that as the workers will pay for upkeep and maintenance of their devices, in fact, a Good Technology report cited by PC World found that far from being indignant about work costs coming out of their pocket, the opposite is true: ‘50 percent of companies with BYOD models are requiring employees to cover all costs – and they are happy to do so.’ So not only are businesses left with happier employees, their costs are much lower.
However, there is a dark side. Issues with compliance and ownership inevitably arise. If an employee owns their device, there is a blurred line between what is acceptable for them to be downloading or browsing and harder to ensure that they’re not going onto personal sites -- or worse -- compromised sites such as gaming sites at work. BYOD’s also present a challenge to securing your systems. Even if your employee isn’t logging on to compromised sites in their work hours, those sites can still act as a gateway to your systems, leading to a breach or attack.
If business owners want to reap the benefits of this technology, then they must develop a stringent BYOD protocol. Like a cyber security plan, it should clearly outline:
- Acceptable online practices
- Recourse if those practices are breached
- How data is to be stored on devices
- Password practices
- Transfer practice from company to the personal device
- Directions as to what happens when an employee leaves the company
These guidelines don’t happen quickly. Developing protocol takes time and open and collaborative input from all the divisions of the company. However, if you work in a spirit of cautiousness, transparency and curiosity, then the rewards can be great.
Mobility for SMEs, as in daily life can bring challenges. However if you are willing to meet these challenges head on, think about how it can be applied to your business in a mindful and strategic manner then not only will it have a positive impact, it could change the culture of your operations. If you would like to know more about the latest in enterprise mobility, consider attending CeBIT Australia’s 2017 Enterprise Mobility Conference. Get your tickets today.