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Your Employees Are More Mobile. Why Aren’t You Giving Them Better Tools?

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Update from Ramon Ray (4 Jan 2013): Since we posted this in 2010, I felt to give you a bit more advice and insight to help you better help you and your staff in your journey to mobile productivity with these tips:

1. Keep in mind that the APPS on your smartphone are just as important as the the smartphone itself. If you ensure that you have the apps that will make you productive on your smartphone, you”ll find that you can be as productive out of the office as you are in the office.

2. Training is important as well. Many mobile technologies are so new that the “average” office worker is not familiar with them or not quite sure how to use them. Invest in training so that your employees don’t only have the right tools but know how to use them.

3. When going mobile, security is also very important. Ensure that your remote staff are accessing your office network securely and that the files on their mobile devices are secure – password protected, encrypted and backed up and even remotely manageable.

Kathy Chill, Vice President, Business Development and Product Marketing at Citrix Online tells us that although most professionals are mobile, businesses are NOT providing them with the tools to be more mobile.
The ubiquity of mobile devices in daily life is enabling mobility for a growing number of
employees. With increased business travel and the trend to more flexible workstyles, the mobile workforce can be seen everywhere – in line grabbing lunch or sitting at Starbucks with their eyes glued to their cell phone or laptop. What effect is this having on small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) specifically? Are small business workers as mobile as their enterprise counterparts, and how do they stay productive while on the move?
According to a recent survey by Citrix Online, 54 percent of SMB employees have become more mobile in their work habits in the past five years and 41 percent have become at least 50 percent more mobile. However, 60 percent of those surveyed said their current employer does not provide mobile tools and resources to increase productivity. In fact, a full 50 percent of respondents provide their own mobile devices and tools in order to be more productive while out of the office. The results of this survey point to a disconnect between employees and employers and suggest that small business owners are slow to recognize the impact mobility has on company productivity.
Advances in technology have made mobile devices more sophisticated and affordable, and connectivity speeds faster with 3G and 4G networks. There is also a plethora of Software as a Service (SaaS) options that let the mobile workforce do everything in the “cloud,” from storing important documents to business analysis to Web conferencing. Combined with the continuing shift in American work culture toward increased flexibility (e.g., virtual work policies becoming more widespread), it seems as if the rise in employee demand for mobile tools and resources will only increase.

A survey released this past May by iPass, provider of enterprise mobility services, indicates that technology is key to employee productivity when out of the office: 93 percent of respondents stated that mobile technology made them more productive.
From these findings, it’s evident that today’s workforce depends on mobility tools to stay
productive wherever they are. SMBs need to acknowledge the link between mobility and
productivity and ensure they are equipping their workers with the tools to make them successful.

Resources to Have in the Mobile Tool Belt

Mobile and remote connectivity tools can empower SMBs and their mobile workers, driving productivity and supporting real-time collaboration among employees and customers. Here are some considerations for useful resources that enable employees to work and connect from anywhere, anytime:

  • Smartphone – With computer-like processing power and features like GPS and Wi-Fi hotspot capability, the smartphone is the Holy Grail for employee mobility; it’s changed the way business is conducted and how colleagues and clients interact. Its simple, yet most important function is providing users with the ability to read and compose emails on the device, thus staying connected while on the go.
  • Netbook/Tablet – A smaller, more portable computing device is useful for those spending a lot of time working from the road. For example, this type of device is perfect for field sales. When shopping for options, checking battery life is important. Making the right investment is worth the price as these devices tend to be workhorses for road warriors.
  • Broadband USB card, mobile hotspots and tethering – Mobile workers can’t rely on the fact that Wi-Fi will be available or reliable wherever they happen to be. It’s smart to have a backup like a broadband USB card, mobile hotspot-enabled smartphone or tethering to guarantee an Internet connection.
  • Virtual collaboration – Web conferencing is a must for mobile workers. The ability to connect instantly and meet in real time with teammates and customers cuts down on the time and cost of travel and allows time to accomplish more. Mobile workers should look for SaaS solutions that are simple, where all that’s needed is an Internet connection, a computer and a few clicks of a mouse to be sharing a screen in moments to give a presentation, review new materials and connect with anyone in the world on demand.
  • Computer and Bluetooth headsets – A computer headset can be a life-changer. Freeing up hands to take notes and multitask is important and obviously much more comfortable for those long conference calls. A headset can improve the sound quality of calls as well as provide significant cost savings by allowing a connection over VoIP.
  • Bluetooth headsets are also useful for those who spend much of their time traveling from location to location by car. Using a Bluetooth headset, calls can be easily conducted while on the road. It’s also a must for safe driving and respecting the hands-free laws that are now in effect.
  • Communications management service – Today’s workforce often has multiple phones and numbers, from home phones, personal cell phones, and work cell phones to office lines and office main lines. Mobile workers constantly on the move should consider a service that provides one number to manage all phones. A service such as this can manage calls received and from whom, and offer useful features like voicemail to text.
  • Remote desktop access – It’s important to consider the technology needs of the increasing number of employees who work remotely, a trend Citrix Online calls “workshifting”. Files and applications that are vital to daily work often tend to be on desktops and not necessarily the corporate network. A remote desktop access application is key here. Not only is it advantageous for the mobile workforce, but it’s also an important part of a good business continuity plan. SaaS solutions are beneficial here as well since they’re often easily scaled throughout a company and do not require training or advance setup on personal laptops, home or public computers.

The Bottom Line

The ability for employees to be productive while out of the office makes small businesses bigger. It widens their reach, extends their day if needed, cuts down on costs and enables work-life balance that fosters a positive work environment. The need to be connected is more important than ever. Mobile tools and solutions make it possible for employees to stay connected to the people and resources they need to succeed and contribute in the workplace.

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About Ramon Ray

Ramon Ray, Marketing & Technology Evangelist, Smallbiztechnology.com & Infusionsoft. Full bio at http://www.ramonray.com . Check him out on Google Plus, Twitter or Facebook

3 thoughts on “Your Employees Are More Mobile. Why Aren’t You Giving Them Better Tools?

  1. avatarshari.sadowski

    Great perspective on the key to keeping mobile employees productive. I would add another bullet point to the Mobile Tool Belt – access to a professional work environment wherever and whenever mobile workers need them. Since they are constantly on-the-go, mobile workers often lack a proper workspace. Regus, http://www.regus.com, is running a contest that will award a fully furnished and equipped office in the U.S. for one year to the business professional that can show a less than ideal workspace. The winner also gets a Regus Businessworld Gold membership – offering access to 1000 locations worldwide. Details on the contest are available at http://www.showusyouroffice.com.

  2. avatarshari.sadowski

    Great perspective on the key to keeping mobile employees productive. I would add another bullet point to the Mobile Tool Belt – access to a professional work environment wherever and whenever mobile workers need them. Since they are constantly on-the-go, mobile workers often lack a proper workspace. Regus, http://www.regus.com, is running a contest that will award a fully furnished and equipped office in the U.S. for one year to the business professional that can show a less than ideal workspace. The winner also gets a Regus Businessworld Gold membership – offering access to 1000 locations worldwide. Details on the contest are available at http://www.showusyouroffice.com.

  3. avatarRon Burns

    Great round up of resources for mobile workers, just wanted to add a few thoughts to your paragraph on virtual collaboration. You’re right, virtual collaboration for mobile workers is a must. But I wouldn’t consider Web conferencing virtual collaboration. Mobile workers need more than simple screen sharing. They need tools to effectively work together on projects. This includes the ability to edit documents in real time, share various other media, brainstorm over a virtual whiteboard, and communicate with others as if they were all in the same location. While Web conferencing will allow one person to broadcast out and share their screen with a group of users, true virtual collaboration allows for multiple users to create, share, and provide input for the task at hand — all at the same time.
    I agree with your statement that virtual collaboration solutions must be simple. Too many technologies require overhauls to the company network, have long learning curves, and stifle collaboration before the remote workers even have a chance to get started. A relatively simple set up and an intuitive interface not only increases adoption, but also boosts the productivity of the remote worker.
    Ron Burns
    CEO ProtonMedia
    http://blog.protonmedia.com

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