Ten years ago this kind of thing would never have happened. Take a walk down to your local Starbucks or library today and chances are you will see part of a workforce, an actual workforce, doing their job. And we don’t mean park rangers. We’re talking about mobile workers. This new, empowered workforce doesn’t need a desk. Instead they take whatever device they use to somewhere outside their office for the ultimate in flexible working. And the phenomenon is getting bigger and more prevalent, with many companies finding that this is one way to reduce costs (even desks cost money) and even have a productive workforce.
This goes against the grain somewhat. When the whole ‘homeworking’ boom began to take off in the mid 2000s, many commentators in the media poured scorn on it, thinking that the whole thing was just a way for people to get paid for being lazy. Obviously the opposite is true because so many companies are making mobile working part of what they do. However, things have changed so much that the mobile worker of today is different from the mobile worker of even two years ago. Technology is developing so rapidly that companies are finding it hard to keep up with what their mobile workforce is capable of.
First of all let’s take a look at how these people are feeling. A recent study by Cisco found that two-thirds of workers would love to work more flexibly, which means they would like to have better hours that fitted into their home lives. This is fair enough, with technology becoming much more amenable to mobile working, it stands to reason that people will see it as a something they would like to try. But it gets better, many of these people would be happy, apparently, to take a lower-paying position if they had that flexibility.
The problem is now more about the device rather than the worker. Studies have recently shown that mobile workers are happier and more productive, not the lazy mass of people the media thought they were in the mid 2000s. However, the devices that companies are trying to get this workforce to use are not always ideal for the task. Companies have historically loaded up laptops with the equivalent of Fort Knox for a firewall, so that their computers and their data are safe. This was seen as a necessary evil, and it has been the case for a long time. The only problem is – as anyone who has tried to use a ‘work laptop’ before will know – that these devices are slow and almost inaccessible.
The future is in cloud. This is what companies are saying. Cloud access to their files keeps devices light and people more productive because there is less downtime. With the iPad becoming one of the more common devices that people have, the fact that the cloud can be accessed on the move by mobile workers through these tablets makes the cloud much more practical in 2013. Mobile workers have grown up, and as long as companies can manage this growing up, they should find that these workers are quicker, more productive and happier.