The mobile workforce is a workforce that conducts business outside the conventional office environment—whether in the field, from home, or otherwise. The mobile workforce includes hybrid workers (who work partly onsite and partly offsite) and deskless workers, such as gig and contingent workers, truckers, construction workers, retail workers, and more.
The concept of the mobile workforce isn’t new, but it has become more prevalent since the beginning of the global pandemic in March 2020 when more people began working from home or remotely. Before this, many leaders dismissed the thought of allowing onsite employees to work offsite—especially from their homes. But with the pandemic, remote working quickly became a necessity rather than a luxury, and both employers and workers were forced to adapt.
The pandemic also shifted worker thinking in general. While working from home, often with their partner and/or children at home with them, many workers quickly realized how much they were missing out on by being away from home all day. This put life into perspective, and workers began redefining success and rethinking when, where, and how they work. The concept of the mobile workforce and flexible work—such as job shares, flexible shifts and hours, and compressed workweeks—has now become more the norm than the exception.
Many have also attributed the rise of the mobile workforce to millennials and Generation Z, for whom the ability to work anywhere and essentially be “portable” is an expectation. And with the growing number of millennials and members of Gen Z in the workforce, companies that don’t offer mobile or flexible work options could lose or miss out on top talent.
More and more companies are realizing that the well-being of their business is directly impacted by the well-being of their employees. The benefits of having a mobile workforce are many—for both companies and workers. For workers, being part of the mobile workforce can help them maintain better work-life balance, which helps prevent burnout. When employees are healthier and happier, they’re more productive and likely to have a more positive employee experience, which can help increase employee engagement and retention.
Companies that already have a mobile workforce—and the technology and tools to support it—may find it easier to hire talented part-time workers to fill specific gaps, giving them access to the skills and staff without the traditional expense of employee benefits. Having fewer onsite workers also means low or no real estate costs and overhead associated with maintaining an office.
Being part of a mobile workforce can also foster greater communication and collaboration—you can meet with your coworkers anywhere, at almost any time, from any device. For large global companies, embracing the concept of mobile workforce management means bringing together individuals from around the world to create a single, powerful team to support their business and customers.
Seeing the benefits for both workers and the business, many companies are starting to promote flexible work options as a recruiting tactic to attract new workers, especially in a very competitive job market.
While there are many benefits, being part of the mobile workforce also has many challenges. Although it can foster greater collaboration, it can also lead individuals to feel isolated, disconnected, and as though they’ve lost some visibility to leadership. This makes staying in touch with workers and providing multiple channels of communication critical.
Similarly, while flexible work options can help improve work-life balance, some mobile workers feel there’s pressure to be available 24/7, which can lead to burnout. It’s important to work with them to create acceptable schedules or help them set boundaries. It can be difficult for workers—especially new employees—to build relationships with managers and peers, so a regular cadence of communication is critical.
Additionally, the use of mobile devices can lead to security issues—especially when workers use their own devices—so it’s ideal for organizations to provide their workers with devices and secure software and cloud access. Finally, having a disparate workforce, especially if team members are scattered across the globe, can make it more challenging to know and understand their status, sentiment, skills, and performance.
When leaders and workers are set up for success, with the right tools and consistent processes in place, managing a mobile workforce can be both enjoyable and productive.
Managing the mobile workforce goes beyond providing laptops, mobile phones, and email accounts. Tools to help manage time and labor, absence management, and workforce health and safety are critical. To ensure the business remains productive and stays on track, organizations must provide multiple channels for ongoing communication and collaboration, project management, and performance management, as well as access to other HR tools and documents.
Beyond the tools and processes, some managers simply don’t know how to manage the mobile workforce, so it’s critical to provide them with adequate training to ensure that both they and their employees understand what’s available, what’s expected of them, and where to find guidance and support.
Encourage leaders and people managers to get to know and better understand their team members, practice empathy to meet workers where they are, and focus more on performance and results than hours worked. Prioritizing results over hours is another way to help focus on worker mental health and well-being to ensure they don’t experience burnout.
Leaders should also take steps to ensure mobile workforce employees are happy and want to remain with the company in the long term. Aside from ensuring that they have what they need to do their jobs effectively and efficiently, it’s important to make sure workers feel supported, valued, and appreciated. Listen and ask for feedback regularly—not just during performance reviews. Consider deploying regular surveys to monitor sentiment, then see where improvements are needed, take action, and make workers aware of the results.
Another way to ensure your mobile workforce stays engaged and happy is to provide opportunities for them to connect and collaborate—beyond their core team—to give them a sense of belonging and a feeling of inclusion.
Putting the right mobile workforce management tools in place will set your organization up for success. This is critical for the HR team and managers—especially when running a large organization with workers dispersed across the country or world. Make it easy for workers to manage everything with accuracy, compliance, and safety in mind using cloud HCM technology that includes time and labor, absence management, and workforce health and safety tools.
Leveraging cloud HCM technology empowers organizations with a seamless single source of truth for real-time insights into their workforce, helps to increase productivity and efficiency, and ensures consistency. Cloud HCM technology also makes it easy for workers to access what they need at any time, from any device, without HR or manager intervention. Onboarding checklists, payroll, time entry, and more can be done quickly and easily.
There’s no going back to requiring all employees to be onsite all the time. If companies want to grow and retain their employees, the practice of managing and supporting a mobile workforce must become part of an organization’s culture. Because of this, it’s imperative that leaders and managers understand how to manage the mobile workforce using consistent, practical tools and technology to help them attract and retain employees, meet and exceed customer needs, and continue to see their business thrive.
Learn more about how to manage your mobile workforce.