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Mobility is a fact of life for small and medium-size businesses today. Employees demand flexible work options, and businesses are rewarded for offering them, says Brie Reynolds, senior career specialist at FlexJobs and Remote.co.
Companies with mobile work programs experience better recruitment and retention results, improved productivity, and increased employee satisfaction levels. Some also benefit from lower real estate and operating costs. In light of those advantages, it’s not surprising that more than 90 percent of SMBs in a recent survey report having mobile employees.
To derive maximum value from this trend, SMBs need to develop and implement a mobile strategy that supports employees’ ability to work remotely and makes it possible for them to access the files, data, and other critical resources they need to do their jobs from wherever they happen to be. Most important, the strategy needs to tie into your overarching business goals and strategies. “Integrating it into the overall functioning of the company helps set the tone that remote and mobile work are serious strategies,” Reynolds says. “That helps managers and workers take them seriously.”
Start by identifying goals
When formulating a mobile strategy, start by identifying the specific goals you want to achieve. Are you looking to increase employee satisfaction and productivity? Expand geographically in a cost-effective manner? Reduce overhead costs? Your goals should drive the decision-making process, but your strategy should also address these points:
- Who is eligible to work remotely? Is mobile work a requirement for certain positions?
- What is the process for employees to request permission to work remotely? What is the basis for granting or denying permission?
- What are your expectations for remote/mobile workers regarding things like schedules, meeting attendance, and communications? If they differ from your expectations for onsite workers, how do you reconcile those differences?
- What metrics (attendance, retention rates, projects completed, employee satisfaction ratings, customer satisfaction, etc.) do you use to measure the effectiveness of your mobile strategy?
Technology plays a critical role in enabling successful mobile strategies. One key to harnessing the productivity benefits of a mobile-enabled workforce is making sure mobile devices can access the content targeted to their role in the company and that their functionality is properly used in collaboration applications, Gartner suggests. It’s important to maintain cross-device functionality and avoid IT silos, where certain apps would be available only to users of a specific type of device.
Offer multiple communication options
“Communication tools are essential to a well-functioning remote team,” Reynolds says. Businesses should offer employees multiple mobile-friendly communication tools (instant messaging, email, web conferencing, etc.) and provide guidelines on when and for what purposes each may be used. Other tools that can help maximize productivity of mobile and remote workers include project management programs, up-to-date computer hardware and software, and large monitors.
Technology-enabled communication tools also play an important role in making sure remote employees continue to feel they are part of the company culture. No remote worker should go more than a day without having interaction with at least two site-based employees or managers, and they should always be included in team meetings via video or teleconferencing. Use technology to enable them to participate in group presentations, as well.
As powerful as modern communications technology is, nothing replaces the human interaction of a face-to-face meeting. Arrange to bring your entire team together at least twice a year, even if it means flying some members in from distant locations. Schedule activities to promote bonding between remote and on-site employees. Giving on-site employees a chance to work remotely once in a while can promote empathy for remote team members and may also suggest ways the remote work experience can be improved.
Security concerns must be factored into your mobile strategy. Small businesses face increased vulnerability to cyberattacks due to the increased use of mobile devices and the growing BYOB (bring your own device) trend. A recent study found that every business surveyed had experienced at least one mobile cyberattack over the previous year. Mobile and remote workers should avoid accessing public Wi-Fi networks with the mobile devices they use for work, and they should be required to use strong passwords on all devices and two-factor authentication whenever possible.
Increased mobility represents an opportunity for SMBs to increase productivity, cut costs, and boost employee satisfaction. The key to reaping those benefits is a strategy built around a formalized program that takes into account both your company’s goals and your workers’ wants and needs.
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