Numerous surveys and reports indicate that mobile devices can be enormous workforce productivity enhancers―with employees voluntarily extending the workplace outside the office. For example, a recent survey conducted by Fierce GovernmentIT and Market Connections found that more than 50% of federal employees achieved five additional hours, weekly, of device-driven productivity, much of which occurred outside the office.
Employees in corporate environments report similar productivity increases― per the 2013 iPass Global Mobile Workforce Report, 75% of mobile workers perform additional work tasks from hotels, airplanes, coffee shops or public transportation. Yet, not all companies―especially small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that may be technology challenged―reap the greatest possible productivity gains from mobility.
A number of factors can impede that goal, and one of them surprisingly, may be a shortage of Internet connectivity. Few companies think about the implications of Internet access for mobile workers, other than possibly to warn them against using public, unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots. Yet, connectivity is becoming an impediment to productivity.
Many wireless providers are discontinuing unlimited free data plans in favor of “set allowance” packages for a certain price, forcing workers to be more conservative with their cellular data usage. In BYOD (worker-provided device) scenarios, this situation is especially touchy, because workers may not be willing to give up precious data allowances for work purposes without proper compensation.
Cellular providers encourage smartphone users to access the Internet over Wi-Fi, but access to these networks is far from ubiquitous. In the iPass survey, 41% of workers said a lack of wireless coverage rendered them unproductive for at least 10% of their workday. That equates to 251 lost hours per worker, per year. A whopping 18% said the unavailability of wireless left them unproductive for 25% of their day, or more.
Based on the numbers, it’s likely that this Wi-Fi shortage is happening both inside and outside the office. To neutralize such a productivity threat, SMBs need to provide sufficient Wi-Fi access inside their offices. They also need to ensure workers can access corporate data as needed, via secure Wi-Fi or high-speed cellular Internet connections when they are out of the office―and compensate them for a reasonable amount of the expense. This may sound costly, but as little $20 a month buys a lot of additional Internet access. If SMBs gain one hour a week of productivity from that outlay, it’s more than paid for itself.
The key for SMBs that adopt mobile device strategies is to find that “sweet spot” where maximum productivity, security and cost effectiveness come together. With current technologies and the help of good advisors, achieving that goal isn’t difficult anymore. In coming months, I’ll offer more mobile productivity tips for your consideration. In the meantime, if you’d like to discuss mobility or connectivity issues your firm is experiencing, please give me a call.