Guest Comment: Understanding, and creating, a mobile work culture in an on-demand world

joseph-blass-ceo-workplaceliveby Joseph Blass, CEO, WorkPlaceLive
Moving from a long-established, traditional work culture, in which staff are employed for a fixed number of hours in a workplace that might be the same building for years or decades, to a mobile paradigm of employment, might appear daunting.
The reality is different for the adaptable and prepared.
If we accept that “culture” in an organisation means “the way we do things around here”, then things have been changing regardless of the direction the CEO, or business development or marketing departments [or customers!] want to take a business.
Technology has been a primary driving force behind the change, enabling employers to vary work hours, introduce hot desking and generally allow their employees – and the business as a whole – to become more “mobile”.
The result has seen greater business agility over the past decade and more, driven by changes in the way organisations are structured and an explosion in mobile telephony and mobile computing.

Perfect storm of change

Add in that most of the population is familiar with accessing information via a browser, and we can see how a perfect storm of change has brewed and is still brewing – often of its own accord. That’s because employees [and freelance support] can be happy to be part of innovation, provided that it doesn’t feel like a threat and might make their lives easier or different in a positive way.
New technology, allied to fast moving changes in the workplace and how business is conducted, isn’t to everybody’s taste, however. Adaptable employees will have minimal problem with working in new ways – the less adaptable perhaps needing some initial support.
Another driver for change is the “always on”, always open for business [and collaboration] attitude that is required – and is happening – to address the way business is increasingly being carried out.
That way is in turn partly driven by the new “on-demand” culture among customers, whether they are B2B or B2C, and regardless of whether a business is in retail, manufacturing, banking or other professional services, or the public/non profit/charity sectors.

Reach out

A more mobile work culture opens up new ways not only to reach out to, and win, new customers, but to meet customer expectations better through, for example, an on-demand service. At the same time it enables an organisation to improve its competitiveness, productivity and efficiency.
Increasingly in such a culture, staff will be happy to work from anywhere provided they feel they are “in the thick of it” and can make as much use as possible of the mobile approach to “how we do things around here”

The culture enables staff to become more responsible for their own attitude and behaviour, because the 9-5.30 boundary has been removed and they can make choices they couldn’t before; choices about when to work and, depending on the employer, where to work. They can catch up with vital work in their spare time, if they wish, allowing themselves a “breather” when back in the office or just the ability to relax a bit more now that the work has been completed.

A culture like this will be welcomed by some employees as an enabler of a “job and vocation cross over” – and a help with the implementation of progressive working practices. These practices not only include flexi hours, flexi days and the ability to work from home or another place of their choosing, but also the employment of working mothers, the semi retired and early retired who are still keen to work – and others who prefer such arrangements.

This group may well include talent that will be very welcomed. Its members might be choosy about what sort of organisation they work for and be entrepreneurial in spirit, making them a valuable resource for the employer.

Tick list to help you on your way

  • Understand, then champion, a mobile work culture
  • Ensure the objectives and targets of the business are optimised by the new cultur
  • Align the culture with progressive working practices as they are introduced
  • Seek or train the talent that will be required to help make the culture happen. It will include those who place a high value on mobility and flexibility/ progressive working practices and seek satisfaction through being able to make a difference while having a degree of freedom.
  • Think outside the box. Do you really need all that fixed office space, especially now that some of your talent is increasingly likely to be dispersed, working from home or low cost, and shared desk space, occasionally in a coffee shop? “Pop-up” offices might be one avenue worth exploring for when they are needed as expansion happens or start-ups roll out – or the traditional office space is shrunk.
  • Look at the computing and telephony technology that will best serve your increasing reliance on mobility and flexibility. To be at its most effective, the technology will require a high level of integration between applications and even with telephony.

In most organisations, the technology will increasingly be cloud-based. The most appropriate cloud solution for a mobile culture is hosted desktops. They enable employees to see their work on the same “desktop” screen they are familiar with, regardless of the device – laptop/tablet/smartphone/desktop/thin client – they are working on and wherever and whenever they are working. Those devices can also be used as VoIP telephony “phones” to make and receive calls that can be integrated with cloud-based customer relationship software.

Creating a mobile work culture will be a necessity for many organisations, large or small. It’s not the threat it might at first appear; examples abound of how businesses have proactively made the step or have adapted to mobile working over time and changed their work culture accordingly.