Freedom and Flexibility for the Workforce, Profitability and Sustainability for the Workplace

Managing the Mobile Workforce

Gartner estimates that over 54 million employees are currently involved in some form of remote work. How do you manage it so it yields positive results and productivity?

By John H. Vivadelli, President & CEO, AgilQuest

A key factor affecting today's workplace is mobility. Employees are constantly on the go - working at client sites, branch offices, or with business partners located across town or across the globe. In this increasingly service-oriented and partner-based economy, mobility is becoming critical to workforces of all sorts. In fact, Tim Kane, President of the International Telework Association & Council, has said, "By 2005, about one-third, or 50 million, of the nation`s workers will be part- or full-time teleworkers." That's more mobile workers than the total combined population of California and New York!

A trend this large affects three major assets of an organization: personnel, real estate and technology. To take advantage of workplace mobility, a new technology infrastructure is required.

What Mobility Means to Employees and Employers

For employees, changing the boundaries of old workplace patterns allows for increased face time with clients, decreasedcommute time, greater control over workloads, and even a more balanced lifestyle (work/life balance). Combined, these translate into increased employee productivity and satisfaction, as well as increased revenue for the company, and higher employee retention.

Reaping such benefits requires an environment that allows companies to take advantage of worker mobility while remaining organized. The environment must ensure that mobile employees get the resources they need, regardless of their location, and it must ensure that each individual workspace is used as efficiently as possible.

Mobile officing is the answer. Organizations can proactively manage and reserve shared resources (such as workspaces, equipment and services), as well as report on the utilization of those resources across departments and facilities. Workspace management tools can be used to reserve resources in real-time, automate inefficient processes, and track and analyze usage patterns, in order to make wise short-and long-term space decisions. These next-generation tools deliver clear financial and organizational benefits to any business with mobile employees.

In a strategic sense, the term mobile officing refers to management strategies that restructure the workplace and work processes in order to improve productivity and space efficiency. According to a General Services Administration report on office space use nationwide, "By focusing on places and their interaction with people and processes, organizations can be more productive and improve the bottom line." Implemented effectively, mobile officing allows workers to perform their primary job duties outside the traditional office without losing productivity and job satisfaction.

Advances in technology, coupled with the shift toward a service-oriented economy, are making the mobile officing concept inevitable. A growing change in public opinion - that mobile officing is beneficial for both employee and employer - has also made it desirable. The technical infrastructure to support worker mobility includes providing them with wireless network access along with portable electronic equipment, such as laptop computers and cell phones.

The Mobility Challenge
Optimizing the Efficiency of Expensive Office Space

Real estate is the second largest expense for most organizations and none of them can afford to waste space. Indeed, every organization has a vested interest in optimizing the efficiency of its existing space and increasing the return on its real estate investment.

Most businesses, however, lack an effective system for managing, reserving or tracking real estate, office equipment or services. Those that utilize an established system for managing and distributing resources among employees typically rely on paper-based spreadsheets and log books, or email calendaring. These approaches fall short in several areas, not least of which is their inability to manage resources across the enterprise or provide easy access to a geographically dispersed workfoce. Without a system that provides such capabilities, organizations cannot realize significant cost savings and gains in efficiency.

Office Space on Demand

Mobile professionals are constantly on the go. They have no time to worry about whether the corner conference room is available for their monthly sales meeting, where they'll find a network connection for their next project team meeting, or whether they can use an office when the assigned occupant is out of town.

Time spent mulling over these issues can negatively impact employee productivity. Moreover, logistical space and resource problems are not confined to a single, independent office. Many companies depend on the optimum utilization of a larger network of space. From Manhattan to Chicago to Austin to San Francisco, workers need to be able to easily find support from other staff members, locate supplies in unfamiliar branch offices and so on. Essentially, work is not a location; instead, mobile employees need space in which they can work

Mobile officing streamlines otherwise costly, time-consuming processes. It consolidates inefficient resource distribution methods and provides a facility and/or enterprise - wide view of shared assets. Professionals benefit from automated, easy-to-use services-deployed at either a single facility or across an enterprise - that can be accessed through a common interface, regardless of location.

In reality, employees do not require a dedicated workspace at all times. After all, office space is a significant real estate investment. The average cost of accommodating an office worker typically runs between $10,000-15,000 per year. Mobile officing offers companies the opportunity to plan and manage that discrete and quantifiable cost of doing business.

Of course, savings mean little if employees are dissatisfied with their work environments. With comprehensive systems, employees can reserve precise types of workspaces and/or equipment to meet their needs. They get what they need where and when they need it.

Measurable Value

Mobile officing enables organizations to:

  • Maximize return on real estate and resource investments
  • Optimize the efficiency of workspaces
  • Automate the reservation and scheduling of workspaces, equipment and services
  • Optimize telework and mobile work strategies
  • Deploy a single solution across an entire enterprise
  • Analyze space utilization and plan for future needs

Real estate typically comprises at least 25% of an organization's assets. By implementing the mobile officing paradigm, employers optimize their workspace efficiency by increasing their worker-to-desk ratio, thus increasing the return on their real estate investment.

The most successful mobile workspace solutions achieve worker-to-desk-ratios of 7:1, effectively reducing the cost of accommodating each worker by 43%. Perhaps even more significant, employing a mobile workspace management solution removes the ceiling from a company`s growth by enabling it to add innumerable staff without adding to their real estate investment.

The cost for providing a single workstation is approximately $10,000-15,000 per year. This means that empty cubicles cost an organization a significant amount of money. In addition, when an organization feels growth pains, it must typically purchase a five- or ten-year lease for additional space. Again, this costs an organization a significant amount of money. Businesses must consider the cost savings if new employees are housed in existing or reservable space.

The savings can be enormous! For example, Gartner Research reports that Ernst & Young, an AgilQuest customer, saves over $40 million each year in reduced real estate costs by using a mobile workplace management solution at 60+ facilities.

Mobile Officing Components

Mobile officing normally involves one or more of the following:

  • Telework/Telecommuitng allows employees to work from home or at a telework or touchdown center. Teleworkers generally work off-site 2-3 days per week, and are linked to the office by cell phone, laptop and/or email. To reap the full benefits of teleworking, organizations often implement office hoteling.
  • Office Hoteling is the practice of providing office assets to employees as a dynamic pool of reservable resources. When an organization "hotels", its mobile employees reserve workspaces and resources through a real-time reservation system.
  • Telecenters are conveniently located work facilities with on-site managers and sophisticated communications technology.
  • Office Suites provide fully equipped office space on a short-term lease basis. Many corporations use office suite providers for overflow (when too many employees are in the office at once), or for mobile workers who need to work in an area where a branch office is not located.
  • Virtual Offices are offices that travel with mobile employees. Virtual office workers rarely require dedicated office space since their office is a network of communication devices, voice mailboxes, vehicles and hotel rooms.
  • Free Address/Free Ranging is the practice of assigning offices or workspaces on a first-come, first-serve basis. Similar to office hoteling, free address/free ranging normally lacks an organized reservation system.

The average cost of accommodating an office worker typically runs between $10,000 and $15,000 per year per year.

Mobile Officing in Action

Many organizations have departments whose workers are out of the office 20% of the time or more. Instead of having dedicated workspaces, these employees reserve workspaces and other related resources thorough an automated reservation system.

These workers typically make a reservation through a web site, a walk-up kiosk, a VoIP phone, or a concierge. The technology that supports the mobile officing environment switches users` unique telephone extension from the voice mail system to the appropriate workspace, and then disconnects that extension once the worker leaves.

Mobile officing configurations vary, but the most successful solutions accommodate employees` needs and schedules. The earliest mobile officing solutions were completely full-service initiatives run by concierges who managed reservations and set up workspaces for daily use. Today`s comprehensive solutions provide numerous reservation interfaces to create self-service environments, such as walk-up kiosks, web sites, and VoIP phones.

Conclusion

The increased mobility of the modern workforce has been the prime catalyst for the creation of mobile officing. Advances in technology have made these concepts efficient, effective and desirable.

Mobile officing allows businesses to significantly decrease one of their largest expenses, real estate, by 25% or more. Even then, growth becomes possible with minimal effort. The productivity of mobile professionals increases, while organizations easily manage their mobile staff, no matter where individual employees are located.

The mobile officing trend is growing at such a rapid pace that it would be an understatement to call it merely beneficial. Mobile officing is critical to modern and future businesses, and constitutes a "do-or-die" paradigm that must be adopted by many and, at the very least, considered by all.

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