Managing a mobile workforce is tricky – but if the stats are to be believed, then it’s something we should get used to, or at least better at. There are already over 1 billion people untethered from their desks, and that number’s expected to rise to over 1.3 billion by 2015.
The move to an increasingly mobile workforce has been swift, like the changes in technology that have enabled it, but it’s important to take stock and remember that the challenges are different, and so should be the approaches.
Here are five things you can do if you want a happy – and productive – mobile workforce.
1. Keep in touch.
It’s easy to lose touch with mobile workers, when they don’t share a workspace with you. Keep communication open and two-way, but choose your methods of communication wisely. Conference calls are fine for general business updates, but use video conferencing for demonstrations, and arrange in-person meetings for training and business planning.
2. Practice what you preach.
Make a sincere effort to understand the pain and pleasure of mobile working, by setting some time aside, perhaps once a week, to work from home, on the road or in a ‘third space’, like a coffee shop or a co-working space. It’s really important, when you do, to set a standard and uphold excellence. Don’t be late to virtual meetings, for example, use a headset, and provide context to your work situation.
3. Let employees pick their own tools.
According to one survey, 77% of employees are already using their own devices, to some extent, to do work. If you can help it, don’t enforce hardware or software decisions on your mobile workforce. At least, involve them in the decision-making process. BYOD, which stands for “bring your own device” (and now ‘bring your own cloud’), is an issue affecting all organizations. The question is no longer ‘is this happening?’ or ‘how can we stop it?’, but ‘how can we embrace this trend?’.
4. Set clear goals and expectations.
Trust is perhaps the biggest issue when working with a mobile workforce or virtual team. When you’ve little to no face-time, it’s even more important to communicate clear goals and expectations. Mobile workers don’t work 9-to-5, and they don’t work in an office, so their output is far more important than their physical presence. Measure this against those goals and expectations – and you may find that mobile workers are even more productive when you give them time, space and trust.
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