Today’s mobile employees not only have a lot of distance to cover, but they also have a lot to get done when they’re not driving. With 96.2 million mobile workers – and growing – making up 60% of our workforce, it’s time for businesses to start thinking about how to help their mobile workforce succeed.
The obstacles are formidable, and they aren’t going away. The pace of work is continuing to climb as technology seeps further into our lives and makes it easier to work anytime, anywhere. This means mobile employees need the tools to do their work efficiently outside of the office, to communicate with their co-workers to ensure they are on the same page, and to make the most of the time when they aren’t on the road so they can get the work done that really matters.
Below are five tips for keeping your mobile employees productive and your business successful.
1. Invest in the Right Hardware
With limited time, the right hardware can make all the difference in getting the job done.
First and foremost, it’s up to employers to provide their employees with the right mobile devices – from laptops and tablets, to smartphones – so that they can work effectively on the go. Below are a few top-of-the-line mobile devices we recommend:
- Ultra-light laptop: The mobile employee needs a best-in-class business laptop that is both durable and ultra-portable. Top picks from PC Magazine include: Lenovo ThinkPad T450s, Dell Latitude 14 7000 Series, Acer TravelMate P645-SG-79QV, Apple MacBook (2015), and Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch (2015).
- Tablet: If price is of no object, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is the best business tablet of 2016; if you travel hard and wear on your devices, the Panasonic ToughPad FZ-M1 is for you; and if you’re looking for value, go for the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2.
- Phone: There was a time when Blackberries were the phone of choice for business professionals, but that time has far passed. Today, Apple and Android phones are arguably the best for businesses. Apple has continually updated their iPhones over the past few years, and iOS boasts a top selection of productivity and business apps plus an easy-to-use interface. Meanwhile, Android phones often experience better battery life and offer more choice and customization. Here is an overview of the best new Androids for 2016.
Even with the best mobile device, however, without connectivity the mobile employee is as good as dead in the water. Ensuring that employees can stay connected during long travel days is key to their success. A dead phone battery is no excuse for missing that conference call, and the down wi-fi in that internet café won’t make up for not being able to send in that urgent project. Keep your mobile employees’ batteries charged and their technology online no matter where they are:
2. Invest in Communication
A January 2016 Gallup poll found that only 32.5% of employees are engaged at work. For companies with mobile employees, this is a particularly alarming stat given that low employee engagement has been linked to reduced productivity and profitability.
Mobile employees spend the majority of their time in the field, away from corporate offices or headquarters, and often away from their managers. They can easily feel disconnected from their company – and their company’s mission – while also occasionally being literally disconnected from their team and company by technological barriers.
As a result, communication with mobile employees is paramount to their success. This means investing the effort in keeping employees updated on company news, recognizing their accomplishments in the field, and ensuring that their managers are constantly communicating to discuss any issues as they come up. Here are some tips on how to improve direct communication with employees from Inc. and Entrepreneur.
At the same time, companies also need to invest in and take advantage of software and social technologies that can ease the difficulties of long distance communication between a team. The McKinsey Global Institute has found that the use of social technologies to improve communication, knowledge sharing, and collaboration within an enterprise has the potential for powerful impact on productivity. There are a variety of technologies companies can use for direct communication between mobile team members, including:
3. Provide a Way to Easily (and Securely) Share Files
Hand in hand with communication is secure and easy file sharing. Even if your mobile employees and their team are on the same page, if they aren’t working off the same document they are still basically running in place. This is one of the most serious issues facing mobile employees, who need the ability to keep their team up-to-date, to access files anytime, and to share large files that may exceed email attachment limits. Luckily cloud-based technology solutions are increasingly making file sharing easier and more secure. Below are a few recommended file sharing technologies:
4. Automate Administrative Tasks
Equally important as providing powerful communication and work tools is giving employees the time to use them. By eliminating time-intensive administrative tasks that are not the primary business function of employees, businesses can drastically increase the amount of time employees have to spend on their revenue-generating functions.
5. Integrate Systems
When leaders invest in the above automation tools, it eliminates employees’ once-manual tasks, but it can also mean multiple systems that mobile employees must log into. As a result, it’s important to integrate solutions when possible to reduce administrative burden and the need to maintain multiple systems of record. This is crucial to ensuring that mobile employees can spend their time as efficiently as possible. And with companies continually increasing their API integration abilities, it’s becoming easier and easier to do. Check out this Motus Beat post for more on the importance of integration and to make sure you are using your mobile workforce management technology as effectively as possible.
With these tips in your pocket, your business can take a few more steps towards keeping your mobile workers in motion, but also making sure that when they’re not, they are still moving your business forward.