“Mobile workforce” versus “occasionally working from home”
A well-equipped and prepared mobile workforce isn't the same thing as people who can occasionally work from home.
Pre-COVID-19, work-from-home measures for many businesses included examples like workers using email and VPN access to shared drives, or workers who might have taken their work laptops home to spend a day fielding customer calls from their home office. But work-from-home policies were often not standardized, and companies had not invested in the tools to streamline remote, distributed workflow.
In other words, not all tasks could be completed if a person was out of the office. The coronavirus pandemic revealed that many businesses were not ready for a truly mobile workforce.
Putting aside companies like restaurants that require on-site labor, 45% of organizations that were able to shift some or all employees to remote working said they were, at best, only partially prepared or, at worst, were not prepared at all.
Were companies prepared to deploy mobile workforces during the COVID-19 crisis?
Prior to the pandemic, just under 50% of companies had invested in digitization of document creation and collaboration tools, which are critical technical requirements in mobile workforce management. Organizations were even less prepared in other areas.
- Just over 40% had worked to digitize employee records, HR processes and contract management, including the use of electronic signatures.
- Less than 40% had created digital archives of corporate records.
- Only 36% had automated finance and accounting processes.
Around 1 in 5 companies had not implemented any initiatives to digitize processes or create support for mobile workforces prior to the COVID-19 crisis.
Technology to support mobile workforces is now a requirement
Without the software and processes to effectively manage remote and distributed work, many companies struggled to hit production goals, achieve planned strategies or even manage employees.
Team members often struggled to understand what their new requirements were, how to meet them, and how to communicate with each other. In hindsight, better preparation with digital workflow, electronic document management, collaboration tools, cloud software, and modern hardware like laptops and smartphones would have made a big difference.
Today's businesses must support mobile workforces for a variety of reasons, including:
- Business continuity during emergencies or disasters
- The ability to hire outside of traditional geographic areas to get the best possible talent
- Options to provide accessible jobs for those with disabilities or circumstances that make it difficult to work full-time out of the home
Better positioning as an attractive employer, especially for younger generations who value flexibility as much or more than some traditional job perks