The rise of the mobile worker

According to analyst firm IDC, mobile workers will account for more than one quarter of the world's working population by 2009.

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By  Administrator Published  September 6, 2007

Cisco's mobility solutions are designed as an integral part of the network infrastructure. This approach ensures our solutions work smoothly, for a lower total cost of ownership, simpler deployment, and improved data integrity and compliance.

As an example, Cisco's Unified Communications, which brings together presence and preference information, with text, voice and video communication can have a significant impact on the effectiveness and success of a mobile workforce.

Presence and preference services allow colleagues to see when people are online and what their preferred method of communication is. This enables them to contact each other more quickly, facilitating ad-hoc conversations that improve socialisation and increase productivity.

To gain better understanding on the behaviour and dynamics of the mobile workforce and how the correct use of communications technology in the workplace can make more workers more effective and productive, Cisco has commissioned a study - Understanding and Managing the Mobile Workforce - which was carried out by Pearn Kandola, an occupational psychology firm which specialises in understanding how behaviours impact success in today's business environment.

Geographically, the report addressed five regions, which include Middle East and Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Russia and CIS and Western Europe.

The research showed that there are different cultural approaches to mobile working, and this is especially important for multinational companies that frequently have cross-cultural mobile teams.

To increase the effectiveness of the mobile workforce, the use of technology needs to be combined with best practice guidelines to help employees choose the most appropriate and effective communication media for the situation or task.

The study showed that mismanagement in particular can have serious implications on the success of a mobile worker - with under and over communication both having a negative impact. A lack of regular communication can lead to increased levels of stress and feelings of isolation, whereas micromanagement can undermine trust.

According to the study, managers will need to act as a bridge between office and mobile workers, encouraging communication and helping to outline the unique difficulties each group faces. They should further give their staff attention, recognition and empathy with their needs and a constant sense of inclusion. Employers therefore need to adapt their management style to foster inclusion and trust, as well as understand the mental and physical stresses of mobile workers. Managers further need to emphasise on deliverables, rather than activities and discover where each individual's challenges lie and provide coaching and support when appropriate.

On the other hand, mobile workers need to understand where their strength lies so they can drive their own personal development. According to the study, work/life balance is seen as a major challenge for this market. The boundaries between home and work life are blurred as people get in contact at inappropriate times, when office workers would not be expected to be working. Therefore, managers need to address these issues and encourage their mobile workers to work sensible hours and make time for relaxation. Once the right systems and resources are in place, the potential of a fully-collaborative mobile workforce is significant.

Businesses are expected to continue to reap the benefits of this type of investment for years to come.

Sam Alkharrat is the managing director of Cisco Systems, Gulf and Pakistan

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