Mobile workers feel flexibility improves productivity

5 Mar 2008

Over half of Irish employees who work remotely say their work has improved as a result, three quarters say it has been good for them personally and 71pc would recommend it to a friend, new research has found.

Some 62pc of respondents to the Vodafone Ireland mobile workers’ survey said there is no change to their working hours as a result of mobile working, with 16pc working more and 11pc working less hours as a result. Some 55pc said the quality of their work improved.

“There is a stereotype type of the ‘CrackBerry’ worker and the notion that mobile working disrupts the work/life balance but as the survey shows, this is plainly not true,” said Colm McVeigh, director of enterprise & business for Vodafone Ireland.

This survey was an opportunity to debunk a few other notions related to mobile working, said McVeigh. “It can be seen that over 60pc of respondents said their work hours didn’t increase but the key to embracing mobile working really is with management.”

The research was conducted by Amarach Consulting on behalf of Vodafone Ireland. For the purpose of the research, a mobile worker was defined as somebody who had their mobile communication cost paid by their employer, who worked at least one day a week outside of their employer’s main office and who had email access while out of the office.

The research found 33pc of mobile workers feel their promotional prospects have improved as a result of mobile working.

Remote working also has a part to play in employee retention, the findings suggest. 41pc said mobile working has improved their willingness to remain with their employer and 37pc rated their motivational levels as improved because of it. Some 45pc said their relationship with customers and suppliers improved, while 50pc stated their ability to service customers has improved.

In addition, 35pc of mobile workers said mobile working has reduced stress levels, with 7pc saying their stress levels have worsened since becoming a mobile worker.

The biggest advantages to mobile working, according to respondents, is greater flexibility, increased freedom, ability to work faster, closer relationship with clients and better job satisfaction.

On the negative side, some 27pc of mobile workers said they often experienced interruptions in their time off as a result of work-related communications;, while 68pc said they rarely or occasionally experience interruptions.

The survey highlighted the demographics of mobile working, with 65pc of mobile workers surveyed being men and 46pc being people managers. On average, the Irish mobile worker spends about two days in the office, two days on the road and one day working from home per week.

Female mobile workers are more comfortable working independently than men, with 44pc of women surveyed saying they prefer to work independently as opposed to 30pc of men.

Male mobile workers’ preference for teamwork is also supported by the fact that men maintain more frequent contact with the office than their female counterparts: 36pc of men and 26pc of women increased the number of social calls to colleagues, while 61pc of men and 44pc of women increased the overall number of calls to the office.

“People have favourite work styles: some like working independently and will work with a team at different times. Mobile working is about managing your own personal ‘bandwidth’ energy levels.

“There are times where you will need quiet time to pull together a presentation and then meet with colleagues to agree on something as a team and mobile working suits this,” observes McVeigh.

Vodafone Ireland is working with the Small Firms Association (SFA) to use the insights from this research to develop an information guide which will give businesses tips on how to best manage and motivate a mobile workforce.

“This is the most in-depth research ever conducted in Ireland on mobile working and demonstrates there is a clear cultural transition taking place which is rapidly changing the way our society views work,” said McVeigh.

“Results clearly demonstrate that employees really value the increased flexibility and trust put in them to manage their own workloads through mobile working and are in turn more productive, more loyal to their employer and better able to meet the needs of their customers.”

“[Mobile working] will undoubtedly lead to efficiency and effectiveness gains for small businesses and will improve overall company productivity levels, which is essential in these more competitive and challenging times,” said Patricia Callan, director, SFA.

“Companies and organisations now need to understand this phenomenon: that it empowers workers to go out and do their job and they are measured not on their presence in the office but rather by what they deliver,” McVeigh notes.

“Measuring productivity by being seen to be at the office and working is now an outdated concept,” added McVeigh.

By Niall Byrne and Marie Boran