Ongoing digitization brings with it challenges in terms of mobile working. How can you meet these challenges? Find out how you can profitably establish the mobile workplace in your company.

“New work”, “digital workspace”, “agile working” – no other area is currently the subject of so many buzzwords as the future of work. What’s the truth? Are we chasing hypes or will digitalization permanently change the way we work?

The future of mobile work

How about staying at home today and working in your home office? Or are you on a business trip and still want to approve an employee’s vacation request via smartphone? What is already a reality for some entrepreneurs and department heads still sounds far away for many others.

According to a study conducted by the German Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs in 2017, only very few employees feel that their mobile work environment is ideal. Two things are particularly important to employees: on the one hand, recognition from the boss, and on the other, optimal IT equipment in their office. It is precisely this that received a poor grade from around 60 percent. Poor data access and little flexibility with regard to new digital requirements are some of the shortcomings.

At the same time, markets and people are becoming increasingly dynamic. Your employees want to adapt to the new conditions, they want to be able to act faster and work more efficiently. In the context of your business, enterprise mobility is the coming trend.

What is Enterprise Mobility?

The basis of enterprise mobility is a digital workplace that provides all the information and tools needed for the work task at the current work location. This is made possible by business apps that go beyond conventional delivery forms such as web clients to enable access to information and participation in business processes.

Interfaces to various legacy applications and backend systems are used and data is processed live or synchronized. In this way, data can be exchanged and processed across devices, independent of time and location. Specifically, service technicians, for example, can now access central data from machines, systems or customers.

Mobile working as a competitive advantage

Many companies already offer basic mobile applications such as e-mail service and calendar functions. However, those that are driving the mobilization of their entire business processes are 15 percent more productive and operate nearly 30 percent more profitably. Why?

  • Tasks become immediately available and can be completed directly.
  • Relevant information for optimal services for employees and customers is there when you need it and where you need it.
  • Processing times are reduced to a minimum and efficiency is increased.
  • Quality increases: Manual errors in the transfer of information between people and departments are reduced and the process is transparent.
  • Employees become more productive in their working hours or can reduce them.
  • Costs in the company can be reduced.

Mobile working: Exploiting opportunities and benefits

Ideally, employees and employers are equally interested in enabling mobile and flexible working. For more and more people, being able to move freely and participate in corporate processes while on the road is a requirement of their job or employer. As we all know, digitization is changing processes, including our own workflows and framework conditions. But that by no means means being on call around the clock. Actually, this is a matter of course.

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Study: Mobile working saves time

However, it often isn’t. At least, that’s how the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) see it. In a joint study, they found that the trend toward mobile working has positive and negative sides. On the positive side, most respondents said that mobile working saves them time and makes them more autonomous. The authors also note that there are fewer cars on the road and that employees are significantly more motivated.

The downside – and this probably wouldn’t have required a scientific study – is that constant accessibility produces stress. In addition, according to the study authors, mobile working often leads to longer working hours.

Mobile work vs. office: let employees choose

Although it appears to be the case in the public debate, working from home is not per se becoming part of employees’ everyday lives. Currently, four out of ten companies (39 percent) in Germany allow their employees to work partially or entirely from home. While there was a steady increase until 2008, the number of employees sitting in a home office has been declining ever since, according to the German Institute for Economic Research. So instead of relying on rigid solutions, companies should instead focus on providing employees with a variable and flexible working environment. In times of digitalization, companies should accommodate as many workplace models as possible, which promote creativity and also offer spaces for retreat.

Clarify three central questions: what, when, how much.

Of course – this is the kind of thing that needs to be regulated. And a distinction should be made between working from home and mobile work, such as access to e-mails and workflows. The social partners are called upon and, if necessary, the legislator, where current regulations of the labor law are not sufficient. Since the proportion of mobile working in Germany is still well below the European average, we are in the fortunate position in this country of being able to define rules in good time.

First step into digitization

Investments in mobile working not only provide an enormous productivity boost in your company, but also represent the basic building block for further digitization projects. Once the platform has been set up, further services and solutions can be added, for example to integrate your customers.

It is important that you develop a digital agenda early on and go beyond one-off solutions – then you can always stay one step ahead of your competition.

No less important are your satisfied employees, whom you give the freedom to organize their work flexibly. After all, if IT in the company is lacking, even recognition from the boss won’t help.

Because one thing is clear: this trend is catching on. And mobile solutions clearly show that intelligent and user-friendly handling of the issue can provide significant relief for colleagues who work on the road. And then what ILO and Eurofound ultimately write as a conclusion to their study is true: On the whole, the opportunities and advantages of mobile working outweigh the disadvantages. These opportunities must be exploited.

What should be considered when introducing agility in the company?

Originally originating in software development, agile project management methods such as Scrum and Kanban have now found their way into other areas of the company as a “miracle cure”. Viewed soberly, agility cannot solve all problems, but it can certainly make them visible and promote flexibility in digital change.

Agile working at the push of a button?

Agile working first requires a radical rethinking of corporate culture, from hierarchical structures to more personal responsibility. It is particularly important that employees and managers constantly reflect on their work. This requires a good dose of critical faculties. Employees often mistakenly confuse the abolition of traditional hierarchies in the company with fool’s freedom. In agile teams in particular, personal responsibility means taking responsibility for the team and the common goal. So it takes a lot of openness, communication and, above all, time for agile methods to unfold their full impact in the company.

Digitization changes work and promotes lifelong learning

Decades-long corporate careers are becoming increasingly rare these days. There are two reasons for this. On the one hand, due to a shortage of skilled workers in some industries, employees have the option of choosing the better offer in each case and often associate a change of job with a climb up the career ladder or even with a new direction in the economy. On the other hand, career starters today are confronted with stumbling from one temporary relationship to the next, sometimes for years. Due to the lack of security and the simultaneous increase in opportunities, employees’ loyalty to the company decreases. This, in turn, means that employees are constantly improving their qualifications in a digital working world and tend to pursue expert careers instead of climbing the classic career ladder in a single company.

So what does this mean for companies? Lifelong learning is becoming increasingly important in a digitized and fast-paced world. Employees, who should remain flexible and open-minded, must adapt to constant change, but so must companies, which exemplify an open corporate culture. It is not only a matter of finding suitable talent, but also of making them fit for digitization and providing them with ongoing training.

Conclusion - What can the HR department do for future work?

Whereas not so long ago HR departments were mere payroll clerks, the constantly changing demands of the digital world of work mean that they are being asked more than ever to help shape the nature of work and develop it strategically. Especially in the digital transformation, it is important to promote digital competencies among employees and to stand out in the “war for talents” through optimal recruiting. As we all know, the competition never sleeps: the better HR departments are prepared for the digital transformation, the more likely they are to achieve sustainable corporate success.

HR software such as the digital personnel file or self-services for employees and managers can help keep manual and time-consuming routine activities in the HR department to a minimum so that you can devote yourself to essential tasks such as strategic personnel development.

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About Thomas Meysel
Thomas Meysel has been product manager for EASY applications since June 2016. In his spare time he travels as a passionate hobby chef and author of cookbooks on East African cuisine. If the cooking results are unsuccessful, he reduces his frustration by going to the Borussia Dortmund football stadium.
Thomas Meysel
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