From the early availability of personal computers and home internet connections, workplaces have tested different forms of flexible working practices. Developments in technology like portable computers, virtual private networks, and the growing accessibility of internet connections have further expanded the practical range of flexible structures, and the locations staff can work from.
Why go mobile?
There's a wide range of identified benefits in allowing staff to complete some or all their work remotely, including:
- Attracting the best staff by expanding the available talent pool beyond the areas your existing offices may be located, and accommodating the growing trends of freelancing and outsourcing;
- Fostering new innovations through the creativity that can flow from exposing the mind to new working locations and situations;
- Increasing productivity by allowing employees to work at the time and location that suits their personal style or commitments; and
- Reducing costs by lowering the overhead normally spent on office rental, furniture and maintenance of in-house servers and related hardware.
Management frameworks like ROWE (Results Only Working Environment) have grown to help ensure the productivity of high performance staff isn’t affected when removed from traditional workplace command and control structures.
Dispersed working in action.
Automattic, the commercial arm of popular CMS WordPress, which by some estimates runs as many as 27% of websites globally, are a leading example of a high performance flexible workplace. With more than 400 staff distributed across 50 countries who don’t share an office, the company uses custom collaboration tools and private group chat extensively, as well as a rigorous focus on results and outcome measurement to ensure projects stay on track.
Workplace flexibility is being pursued in more traditional workplaces too, as seen by the 2016 announcement by the Premier of New South Wales that “100 per cent of public service jobs will be flexible by 2019.”
Smartphones – the next step in workforce flexibility.
The next wave of employee mobility is being powered by the growth in power of smart devices, interfaced with intelligent communication suites.
Rather than just being a vehicle for one-way text messages or phone calls, mobiles now provide workforce management for a range of functional areas, such as IT, welfare and human resources departments, to keep remote staff safe, and help ensure productivity on the road.
Some common applications already in use include:
- IT system updates:
- Remote staff safety:
- Staff productivity:
Engaging your enterprise systems of record.
The next step in unlocking the power of mobile is directly connecting to systems of record - the operating systems of an organisation.
These are both back office and front office applications and databases, which manage activities like finance, sales, marketing and human resources - ERP, CRM, accounting software, etc.
Well-designed mobile apps are essentially a front endpoint for systems of record, which allow actions to be taken directly from the interface, a means of controlling these programs that sits in the pocket of the user.
HTML5 micro apps on demand
A new breed of communications platforms has grown that can deliver a fully fledged mobile app on demand to any internet connected smart device. This can be done in the form of an initial text message or email, which opens the micro app on the remote hosted communication platform.
The great advantage is the end user doesn’t need to have the app installed to be able to access the functionality. This allows the organisation to create any conceivable user experience to automate and streamline that process.
For employee management this could be anything from culture surveys to interactive training tools. The new starter experience, for example, can now be fully automated, from interview to induction.
An initial text message can be sent to candidates, which opens a micro app with all the details of their upcoming interview, including maps, interviewer, timings and everything they’ll need to bring on the day. The response capabilities of the app allow the candidate to accept, reject or reschedule from the same message.
All of these responses can be tracked via API to directly update the back-end HR systems.
These same automated steps can be followed all the way to induction for the successful applicant, saving considerable time and cost for employers, and ensuring the new starter receives a planned, consistent and engaging experience at every part of their journey.