Go back ten years or so and a mobile workforce didn’t widely exist. Before the era of smart phones, laptops and being able to connect to the internet literally anywhere, even from a device in your pocket, the thought of being able to work in such a way would have felt very futuristic. Skip to 2018 and more people are able to work remotely than ever before. It’s a new era of flexible working, which for a home working parent, like me, has many benefits.
I’ve not yet myself worked remotely as a full time employee, but I do regularly take part in stock and equipment audits as well as mystery shopping tasks for large retailers. These are often one-off, short term, freelance positions if you will. It’s part of a growing gig economy which makes use of a mobile workforce, saving companies money by not employing people to travel the country, instead placing real-time consumers in local stores to capture the data the retailers need. Related: Get paid doing simple tasks from your phone with Streetbees
There are a variety of apps that allow you to pick and choose the jobs you’d like to do and fit it around a busy lifestyle. It’s a great way to make extra cash around parenting, add another side hustle to a self-employed home income, or even with enough dedication as a full time role. It’s not for everyone as the income and work available is inconsistent, but thanks to being able to work mobile, it’s a brilliant option for some parents.
Many of these apps now offer an entire day’s work too. Recruitment agencies are also recruiting via apps offering short term contracts and temporary positions. The ease at which work can now be found and a mobile worker located is ever increasing in this digital age.
As well as the mobile workforce that can be recruited for live retail execution, normal office type businesses are also seeing the benefit of staff being able to work more flexibly and on a mobile basis. It’s not just for those who need to travel afar anymore. The majority of office workers can work remotely if they have the right equipment and an internet connection. Not only are mobile workforces becoming increasingly popular as a means for flexible workers to earn extra cash, they’re also becoming an increasingly popular way to work in a conventional role.
I can understand the benefits of working remotely as I work both from home self-employed and also as part of a mobile workforce team on the go. Many of my pre-kid office roles could easily have been completed remotely, from home, and it’s a shame this option wasn’t available when I had to make the big decision of whether to return to work full time in an office or stay at home with my new daughter. If I’d have had the option to work remotely and flexibly I’m certain I’d have returned to my old career. Related: The top 3 ways I made money from home in 2017
Below I look at the pros and cons of a mobile workforce.
The benefits of a mobile workforce
Better work-life balance
If the hours can also be flexible then you can have more control over your working pattern and allow work to fit in to suit you, rather than you having to fit your life around work. Working 9-5 Monday to Friday could be a thing of the past. For parents this is a massive bonus as we can attend our children’s assemblies and take them to their check-ups without fear of having to ask for time away from the office.
Learn new skills remotely
If you’re concerned you need new skills and have no time to train, think again. Even education can now be mobile and online. With the likes of Skype, training can be performed virtually via phone calls and live online video. Employees can learn new skills from home with online college courses, universities and qualifications. Even as a parent who’s trying to work around childcare, we can have access to tutors by email and online test prep resources enabling us to study in our own time around our commitments.
It provides flexibility for our busy lifestyles. If hours don’t need to be set then we can choose to work at the hours that suit us most and are our most productive. Parents no longer need to worry about taking time off work if children are ill or on school holidays. If the hours can be flexible and work can be mobile, then it can all be adapted to suit both the needs of the parent and the business. If going down the self-employed gig route, then work can be chosen as and when it’s needed with no commitments.
Easy for mums to return to work
It’s a brilliant way of us mums being able to return to work. Many computer based roles are suitable to be completed from home. If a new mum wants to provide child care for her child, but also wants to work from home, and the current role can allow for it, then surely the business should allow for it. Plenty of roles require the sole use of a computer which should allow for greater flexibility on location, allowing many parents to retain their roles post maternity leave. Thanks to instant online messaging, phone calls email and video, staff can communicate instantly even if they’re not in the same location. Some parents may not be able to commute to an office during normal office hours and many cannot afford the extortionate childcare costs. Being able to work remotely and flexibly can solve these issues and give more new parents the freedom to return to work if they wish.
Many roles that require the sole use of a laptop and internet connection are location independent roles. We can work from home, hot desks or even a local coffee shop. We can even go away for a week and work from a beach in beautiful surroundings. If every aspect of the role can be done remotely then we have greater flexibility in where we choose to live and how we live our lives. We don’t have to be a stone’s throw away from an office or living in the centre of a city because it’s convenient for work.
Low staff turnover
If staff are happier and can maintain a better work-life balance then they are less likely to leave. A happy committed employee is beneficial to a business. A role in which we feel content and settled is great for us as employees. It’s a win-win situation.
Greater choice of roles
As location is no longer a factor, more jobs are available to everyone. That role you couldn’t apply for ten years ago, because it meant relocating the whole family, is now available to anyone anywhere as it can be completed remotely. Employers get their pick of the best talent from all over, not just nearby, and employees get the choice of roles they live far away from.
No more commutes
If you no longer have to commute to work there will be less pollution in the environment and lots of time saved. Working days will seem shorter as the time to get to and from work is removed. This means more time to spend with family or doing things you enjoy. Plus you’ll save money on travel costs.
Potential issues with a mobile workforce
Time and attendance
One drawback for employers could be whether the remote working staff are trustworthy. If mobile working is agreed, will the staff pull their weight? How will they know the hours the staff have worked? Luckily there are systems for attendance that can be used remotely on an employee’s digital device, through an app for example. A previous role I had required me to be a lone and mobile worker. I simply clocked in and out using an app on my smart phone which not only clocked my hours, but it also tracked my location. My employer knew I was exactly where I was meant to be. Plus as a lone worker it gave me extra peace of mind knowing my location was being recorded in case of an emergency. I was paid for the hours I worked and the app made light work for the HR department. It simply uploaded my hours and was integrated with their payroll system. As a parent fitting work in around children it’s easy to clock in and out several times per day. Alternatively an employer can choose to trust the employee and see the work is being completed.
One issue with a mobile workforce, if working for a variety of companies as a self-employed individual, is access control. I briefly ran into this as a problem when I was to perform an audit as a one-off job. I did not have anything with my name on and no formal ID for the company I was to audit or for the company I was representing. I could have been anyone. I’m sure this problem will be easily solved in the future if mobile employees need access to various buildings, they could be provided with a virtual access card or ID on their mobile phones. Problem solved.
A mobile workforce has huge benefits not only to parents looking for a better work-life balance, but to everyone. As more roles become computer based it only makes sense for people to be able to work in a place and at a time that suits them. Location independent roles will give employees the power to live a better quality lifestyle with the freedom to reside where their heart desires. Employees will benefit from a more productive, committed and content workforce which can only be a good thing. Less money will be spent on renting offices and recruiting staff. I can only see that a mobile workforce model is a win-win situation for the future of the workplace landscape.