A guide to help managers formalize a department or business-wide mobile officing arrangements within their organization.
There are many quantitative and qualitative reasons for beginning a mobile officing program, and/or for formalizing a mobile officing program. Many workers are already mobile, but the technological and cultural infrastructure to support them is absent. This short guide to developing a Mobile Officing Program is meant to help you, the facility manager, formalize a department or business-wide mobile officing arrangement within an organization. The reason for this is simple: benefits and cost-savings are a function of organized scale, and AgilQuest’s software was developed to support mobile officing across the globe. The more organized your company’s approach to mobile officing, the more substantial the benefits.
The Seven Steps to Implementing an Agile Workplace
Introducing the concept of mobile officing into your organization can have a dramatic impact across every department. After all, you’re changing the way your people go to work. Depending on your project’s goals and scope, the introduction of a flexible work style can impact one job type or all job types, one floor or one office, one office or an entire enterprise.
But like every other project, managing your organization’s transition to a mobile work style can be organized and scoped. The points below are the major concepts your mobile officing project team should consider from the beginning:
- Goals and Scope of the Mobile Officing Program
- Obtaining an Executive Sponsor for the program
- The Project Team - Understanding the Change Management issues (based on items 4, 5, and 6 below)
- Departmental Concerns and Roles
- Determining how your employees work and defining the business processes
- Factoring in your unique culture – Policies and Procedures
- The Enterprise Implementation and getting the technologies right
The most important first step you can take is to determine the goals of your project. Everything you do depends upon your objective (some sample objectives are shown below):
- Do you want to increase employee productivity?
- Do you want to increase employee retention and satisfaction?
- Do you want to manage your conference rooms and hospitality services?
- Do you want to share desks and reduce office and support costs?
- Do you want to create and support a telework program?
You may want to accomplish one, none, or all of these goals. But whichever goal you give priority will determine the processes you’ll institute to support the program. A company which values employee satisfaction over decreasing real estate costs will be much more inclined to purchase new furniture, change floor layouts, and install little “perks.” Conversely, a company which wants to increase staff levels without leasing new space will be most interested in automating desk-sharing between mobile workers.
Two additional considerations:
- Is the project for one office or multiple facilities?
- Are the goals the same for every facility?
The flexible office needs to accommodate facility-specific goals and facility-specific variations
Almost everyone is interested in mobile working. But the projects that succeed are the ones that have an executive champion who has a defined budget and knows how to measure success. Projects without a sponsor and a budget often fail because management doesn’t understand the value proposition. The project will stall because the project team is unable to demonstrate the return on investment mobile officing provides. An ideal sponsor has some of the following characteristics:
- Has an interest in, and is affected by, the success of the program
- Manages the business group which will be most affected by the program
- Understands the value proposition
- Has enough influence to make decisions stick and cause the right actions to occur
- Will champion the program internally, and communicate its benefits to other executives
Mobility and flexible working cut across departments. And implementing mobile officing programs even impacts traditionally static workers. Your project team needs to be composed of leaders from within many different departments, and these leaders need to understand that mobile officing is, above all, a change management issue. A good project team has representatives from the following departments:
- Human Resources
- Real Estate
- Information Technology
- One or more of the benefiting line organizations
Each of the departments above will bring different goals to the project. For example, the Line organizations will want to accelerate profitability and flexibility, HR will want to make working easier and workers happier, Facilities will be concerned about floor layouts, Telephony will want to maintain control over the phone switch at all costs. The important task is to insure these departments understand that mobility cuts across departments and the main objective is to facilitate that movement. Moreover, they must be effective in communicating and implementing the necessary change.
The way in which your employees work should be closely connected to the goals of your mobile officing project. Odds are you’re implementing a mobile officing program because some of your employees are highly mobile. You recognize that mobility creates and requires a new office environment that is more commensurate with a dynamic work style. Once you determine how your employees work, you will be able to create the policies and procedures and mobile officing paradigm that best fits your unique culture.
A few topics that you should consider:
- Mobility usually cuts across departments.
Study the work patterns in each department. Don’t exclude anyone from the mobile officing program without first analyzing their work style.
- Levels of mobility vary within departments as well.
An accounting department, for example, may have many mobile accountants working at client sites as well as several researchers that remain relatively static.
- The psychology and patterns of mobility vary among mobile workers.
Sales people, for example, don’t often need or even want their own office. Typical salespeople may be out of the office for a few hours a day. Consultants, on the other hand, often expect their own large office. Consultants are typically out of the office for days at a time, returning only for meetings and mail.
- Often, organizations assume that teleworkers can always work from home and will never need to return to the office.
This is an erroneous assumption, as workers will need to return to the office for meetings, large print jobs, etc. They may even want to return to the office to remain connected to corporate culture. Your mobile officing program must accommodate them in their need to return to the office in order to keep their satisfaction high. However, supplying two desks, one at home and one at the office, is NOT a cost-efficient way to operate a business. A better idea is desk-sharing, which can reduce support costs per employee.
So far we’ve discussed how job type, job location, and job resources effect mobility. But perhaps what’s most important to the successful implementation of a mobile officing program is its compatibility with your unique culture. In a general sense, there are two “flexibility spectrums” which govern how your mobile officing project will operate. There is no generic way to implement a flexible office program, and how one company accomplishes their goals may be completely different from the way in which your organization does.
Control vs. Flexibility
The term mobile officing can mean many different things. As a team, you must decide how much autonomy your culture supports. Do you want to allow your workers to control their work/life balance, or would you rather prescribe certain modes of working and allow your workers to have freedom within those bounds? The answers to these questions are implicitly connected to your culture and to your project goals. In addition, software scheduling and reservation packages that you purchase to support your mobile officing project will need to support your unique mode of working.
Self Service vs. Full Service
What is flexible about your work style? Are the employees flexible in that they move around to find resources? Or, is the administrative arm flexible and present to accommodate employee needs? In the former case, Self Service mobile officing environments make assets available for employees, but there is little oversight or supporting services. In the latter case, Full Service environments go to great lengths to insure employees have everything they need – catering, supplies, little amenities, etc. Full Service environments often incorporate a larger supporting staff.
There are several additional factors one must consider when implementing mobile officing across many different offices across different regions:
- Regional variations in corporate culture
Insure your mobile officing program can accommodate different culture types within your organization. Do the New York salespeople operate differently from the ones in Boise?
- Integration of vendors
What services are you providing to each office? Will the quality be the same at each location?
- Integration of software
Will you be using an enterprise software package to facilitate your mobile work style? If not, how will you reconcile different data types between facilities?
- Relations between offices
What is the relationship between your offices? Is your enterprise a united front or a loose confederation? Are there change management issues between offices?
- Facilitating inter-office travel
How will you facilitate inter-office travel? Will it be part of your mobile officing program? Will you integrate this process with any software packages you purchase?