Communication key to mobile working success

While there are many tangible benefits on offer for employees and employer alike for those businesses that embrace mobile working, there is also a danger that overlooking or underestimating key areas such as management can actually have a far greater negative effect on all concerned.

So claims a new study published today conducted by occupational psychology specialists at Pearn Kandola, which warns of the productivity, performance and psychological and health-related issues that can result from mismanagement of mobile workers.

Lack of communication with mobile workers can affect an employee's stress levels or feelings of being isolated from the rest of the company, while too much communication, or micromanagement, can make them feel like they're being monitored or aren't trusted to do the job without close supervision, warns the Cisco-commissioned study.

Given that analysts like IDC are predicting that mobile employees will make up a quarter of the world's workforce by 2009, it's important that organisations realise the psychological profile and communications resources they need to arm themselves with in order to enjoy the fruits of enterprise mobility.

"As the mobile working phenomenon continues to grow, organisations must ensure that they have suitable leadership in place to manage teams of mobile workers," said Stuart Duff, an occupational psychologist at Pearn Kandola and author of the report. "Managers must not fall into the trap of treating mobile workers in the same way as office-based employees. They need to be effective communicators and relationship builders with an adaptive management style that they can tailor to the personalities within their team. Organisations must also ensure that the right tools and resources are made available to mobile workers, giving them the same connectivity as office-based workers."

The study identifies the dominant character traits that successful mobile workers possess as well as analysing the cultural influences at play. Those that tend to flourish when put in a mobile working scenario tend to be self-motivated, resilient, extroverted and independent, found the study, meaning that companies must bear these attributes in mind during the recruitment process.

The researchers have created five distinctive personality profiles that are well-suited to the trials and tribulations of mobile and remote working: stimulation seekers, tough survivors, curious explorers, independent decision-makers and disciplined achievers.

Trust is also a key to successful mobile worker, with managers needing to ensure they're comfortable enough to let their employees get on with the tasks at hand even when they can't see what they're doing an absolute imperative.

Social interaction forums and collaborative tools such as instant messaging can also help employees and employers stay in touch when required without the feeling of being constantly monitored or completely cut off, according to the report.

"This study highlights the need for businesses to address a number of issues in order to make their mobile workforce as productive as possible," said Clive Sawkins, Cisco's director of unified communications.

"Making sure mobile workers are suitably equipped with appropriate communications technology is important," he said. "For example, presence and video can help reduce the feeling of isolation by giving mobile workers access and visibility of their team members who are online. In addition to this, organisations must also focus on developing skilled managers, select the right candidates and provide the right resources and support to create a successful mobile workforce."

Maggie Holland

Maggie has been a journalist since 1999, starting her career as an editorial assistant on then-weekly magazine Computing, before working her way up to senior reporter level. In 2006, just weeks before ITPro was launched, Maggie joined Dennis Publishing as a reporter. Having worked her way up to editor of ITPro, she was appointed group editor of CloudPro and ITPro in April 2012. She became the editorial director and took responsibility for ChannelPro, in 2016.

Her areas of particular interest, aside from cloud, include management and C-level issues, the business value of technology, green and environmental issues and careers to name but a few.