David D’Souza, Head of London at the CIPD, answers key questions on how businesses can make mobile working work for them
What is ‘mobile working’?
David D’Souza (DD): “The term covers employees working from home, shared workspaces, travelling to and from suppliers and customers, coffee shops and other places. Employees aren’t bound to one location, although their working hours might be fixed.”
Is mobile working more common now in the UK?
DD: “Yes, many more employers are open to the idea, where previously it was limited to employees in the field or senior managers. Employers are realising the benefits, while technology makes it possible for more of us to work remotely as effectively as or even better than if we were in the office or other fixed place of work.”
What key business benefits does mobile working offer?
DD: “Increased productivity, because employees can work in a range of environments, including while they’re traveling. It can save costs too, because less premises space is required. Productivity is less affected by travel problems and other sources of disruption. And it can help businesses to attract and retain staff for whom mobile working provides a better employment experience and work-life balance.”
Are there any key legal restrictions employers should be aware of?
DD: “There are health and safety considerations. Employers have a legal responsibility to ensure employee health and safety. There can also be complications around defining work location when agreeing employment terms. And there can be data protection rules, but all of these can be managed.”
What if employers don’t manage mobile working effectively?
DD: “Productivity can suffer and workers can become disengaged, which can affect their performance and absenteeism. Inefficiency or duplicated work across a team or organisation can also be an issue if communication isn’t good. Employers must make sure roles, responsibilities and expectations are clearly communicated to all employees.”
Should an employer create a mobile working policy?
DD: “It’s sensible, because it can provide clarity by letting employees know exactly what’s expected. Your policy should include principles to help create a shared understanding, rather than a list of rules.”
How important is the technology employees are provided with?
DD: “It’s critical. The requirements of the role and other consideration such as data security should guide your technology choices. Your IT choices should minimise risk. Technology is a key mobile working enabler, but if you don’t give your people the tools they need it will reduce productivity and increase their frustration.”
How important is good communication with mobile workers?
DD: “It’s essential – whether employees are near or remote. Make the most of available technology, it can ensure good communication. Clarity must be part of every manager’s agenda, and some mobile workers might need more frequent contact and support than others. Trust is key. If you don’t think someone can be trusted to work remotely, they shouldn’t work for you in the first place.”
Any final words of advice on mobile working?
DD: “Speak to other businesses that are already doing it and find out how they make it work for them. Standards such as PAS 3000 Smart Working can provide some useful best-practice guidance. And remember that mobile working might not work for every organisation or employee.”
• The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) is the professional body for HR management and people development professionals.
It champions better work and working lives and has set the benchmark for excellence in people and organisation development for more than 100 years.