In the last half decade, mobile devices have become the preferred method of accessing the internet for the vast majority of people. From mobile phones to tablets to laptops, devices that are portable yet fully functional have supplanted powerful desktops as the primary method of connectivity for most users. Even though much of this connectivity is centered around personal activity like social networking and gaming, it is undeniable that more people are connected more of the time – even for professional purposes.
What does his mean for businesses? What are the benefits and disadvantages associated with increased connectivity for organizations? Are those benefits and disadvantages aligned with the interests of employees? How can both companies and workers benefit from increased accessibility to the internet?
From the perspective of a business, increased accessibility to the internet means that workers are never truly disconnected. From checking email as soon as they wake up in the morning to collaborating with colleagues on a presentation or report late at night, all-the-time availability means employees are able to work pretty much anytime they are awake. This has actually helped companies in a number of tangible ways. For example, companies with international interests benefit as employees are able to work with colleagues and customers across many different time zones by simply dialing into a conference call and logging into their laptop at home. Even just a few years ago, this type of collaboration and communication would have required staying at the office late to use a desktop computer and office phone with international calling capability.
From the perspective of the employee, increased accessibility can provide benefits like working remotely and addressing customer requests quickly. Furthermore, activities like the international communication mentioned above become decidedly more convenient if the employee has the freedom to work from any connected device. This, however, is a double-edged sword. If customers and colleagues come to expect quick replies to email and quick call-backs to voicemails, then the delineation between work and play will become clouded even further. Many workers don’t mind the occasional communication outside of business hours should something important or critical occur. But being available at all times and hours to clients and colleagues can quickly become a drain on morale and productivity.
Some organizations like Emerson Network Power have drawn a line in the sand with regard to employee internet accessibility. Their organization, with many thousands of employees worldwide, has a policy of disabling work email outside of regular business hours in an effort to encourage employees to find some separation between work and their home life. Most organizations, however, take advantage of near-constant connectivity to leverage employee resources into essentially being “on call” around the clock.
However, the increased productivity of employees being able to work from anywhere at any time comes with an increased burden on management and IT support. Your IT resources will need to address accessibility and security in new ways. Do employees log into company assets via VPN or are you utilizing cloud services with their own security protocols? Can any device access the network or do you still seek to maintain some control over the hardware? Before you turn your employees loose on the mobile front, it’s important to make sure your IT department is prepared to handle the new, unique challenges.
As for managers and directors, it can be a difficult balancing act to measure employee productivity against mere activity metrics. What strategies do you have in place to make sure actual work is being done when employees are utilizing company resources? Furthermore, are your employees taking their always-on availability as a sign that they are free to work whenever they want? Does a long night collaborating with colleagues justify starting late the next day? It’s important to have a protocol set in place to address all of these issues.
Managing assets in fixed locations during working hours is a thing of the past for IT departments, just as managing employees during working hours is obsolete. New strategies and new thinking will be required if your organization is to thrive in the new, ultra-mobile business world. What policy is best for your organization? Mobility in the workplace and outside of it has resulted in new challenges and advantages for organizations and employees both. Managers and IT teams must be more agile and responsive to a workforce that is on the go…and always going. Click here to learn how Mosaic NetworX can help manage your workforce and resources at any time and from anywhere!