How Mobile Workers Will Change Your Business

A new IDC Canada report suggests organizations will rethink policies, security and collaborative tactics as teams go mobile

Written by Melissa Campeau

If you haven’t seen all your employees in one room since the holiday party, welcome to the new mobile norm. It’s been projected that 73% of employed Canadians will be at least somewhat mobile by 2016. But empowering staff to work anywhere, any time will necessitate a change in business practices over time.

A new report by IDC Canada predicts the Canadian mobile worker population will grow from 69% to 73% by 2016. The study, based on multiple sources including Statistics Canada labour force data and a survey of 500 Canadian executives, defined a mobile worker simply as someone who is not always working at a desk. “They could be a travelling executive, a sales rep, a field worker, a telecommuter, working on location or just working from a Starbucks a few hours each day,” says Krista Napier, senior analyst and tracker lead, mobility for IDC Canada.

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While businesses of all sizes have experienced an uptick in the number of mobile workers, IDC research shows small companies in Canada are much more likely to have on-the-go employees than their larger counterparts. Specifically, says Napier, workers in smaller companies are more likely to spend at least three days a week away from their office, whether in the field, on location or working from home.

With this evolution, the report predicts significant changes to the way businesses operate. And because small businesses are already wading into the deep end of the mobility pool, they’re likely to experience the forecasted trends first.

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Planning specifically for mobile expenses will become the norm, if it’s not already. “Smaller companies will need scalable and affordable solutions for dealing with a more mobile workforce,” says Napier.

Businesses will also look to develop a framework for mobility, suggests the report. A policy for mobile work could provide a guideline for managers and employers to understand expectations, security issues and more. This might also include extra training, Napier notes, to make sure workers know how to get the most out of their mobile devices.

While there are clear benefits to mobile work, less face time with colleagues could translate into fewer impromptu brainstorm sessions and exchanges of ideas. Organizations will look to counter this, suggests the report, by making greater use of collaborative tools including social networking sites, video conferencing and webinars.

Not surprisingly, businesses are likely to lean more on the cloud, as workers become increasingly mobile. With employees able to access data more easily and independently, IT professionals will be able to spend more time developing business-enhancing initiatives instead of focusing mainly on maintenance, the report notes.

And finally, weaving loss-prevention solutions into mobile strategies will be more and more necessary, since an increase in mobile workers can amount to an increased risk of exposed information. “Security around both the hardware and the data residing on them will become more complicated as trends like BYOD (bring your own device) continue to proliferate,” says Napier. “They will need to be addressed.”

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