Mobile working vs. home office – why the difference matters
The 2020 shift towards mobile working was initially meant as a temporary solution to reduce virus exposure. However, after more than a year of working from home, many have started to see its benefits. In fact, when asked about work after the pandemic, almost 60% of remote workers stated that they would quit before having to return to office full-time.
But home office and mobile working aren’t just a perk for employees: Allowing staff to work remotely increases productivity while simultaneously reducing overhead cost such as rent or electricity bills for employers. On the flip side, companies are worried about security issues and lack of collaboration between employees, to name a few. Here is a closer look at the differences in home office and mobile working and how to make either one the right fit for your company.
What actually is mobile working?
As the name suggests, mobile working means any work that is not tied to a fixed desk or office space. The use of mobile devices, such as laptops or cell phones, is typical in mobile working (but not strictly necessary). A commonly known type of mobile worker is the so-called digital nomad, who travels across different countries while working. Other examples include consultants, truck-drivers, or cameramen/-women. From a technical standpoint, any person working on a computer is potentially able to work remotely from any location via internet connection.
Mobile working vs. home office – how are they different?
Working from home and mobile working are both forms of remote work, which is why the terms are often used interchangeably. However, the implications for employers differ significantly. While mobile working refers to work that can be done from nearly anywhere, home offices are potentially more fixed and private in nature and can therefore be equipped much more in accordance with a firm’s workplace guidelines.
Critical differences between home office and mobile working can occur in aspects such as:
- Network security: While home offices typically rely on the same network connection every day, mobile working may happen in various, often public WiFis. Using a VPN can reduce the risk of a data breach, as can using a SIM card or mobile hot spot.
- Privacy law compliance: Depending on the sensitivity of data, mobile working can be a big no-no. Both home office and mobile workers need to be briefed thoroughly in the local privacy laws to avoid third-party access to confidential information. This goes double for mobile workers who should be instructed not to work on sensitive data in public spaces (e.g., cafés).
- Ergonomics: While a home office can be equipped with anything from multiple screens to standing desks, this is not the case for a mobile workplace. On the flip side: As mobile workers frequently change locations and/or devices anyway, this in itself may have a beneficial effect on aspects like posture, eyesight, or blood circulation. However, more research is needed to understand the ergonomic specifications of mobile working.
The benefits of workplace flexibility
Mobile working and home office are beneficial to both employer and employee in several ways. In addition to increased productivity and reduced overhead cost, working remotely leads to heightened job satisfaction and more logged hours per week. With the potential of working from multiple time zones, mobile working furthermore increases the potential number of service hours, leading to happier customers.
Not having to commute means employees are less stressed, spend fewer hours sitting down, and can better respond to their dietary needs, lowering risk factors for medical issues such as cardio-vascular disease or back injuries.
Mobile working furthermore increases the talent pool for companies, as hiring is no longer limited to regions. HR can therefore recruit new employees tailored specifically to the niche of their firm, reducing the amount of training, and shortening onboarding processes.
Remote collaboration: A challenge for both employers and managers
Despite the many benefits of mobile working and home office, it took a global pandemic for most employers to make the switch at all. Beside worries about data security breaches, some employers feared a decrease in collaborative productivity. With communication channels having mostly shifted towards asynchronous forms (i.e., emails and chat), spontaneous interactions and non-verbal communication have become nearly impossible. Keeping track of the progress of a project can be difficult, leading to some tasks being done redundantly while others fall through the cracks.
Learning from international companies
Then again, collaboration across multiple locations isn’t a new thing. For decades, multinational firms have successfully coordinated workflows around the world using enterprise content management (ECM) systems.
ECM is mostly associated with large corporations and in-house IT departments. But while it may have started out this way, the market has since adapted to cater to smaller businesses with ready-to-go SaaS products or customizable low-code/no-code clients.
Enterprise Content Management is ideal for remote collaboration
ECM concepts like revision management and approval workflows are designed to mimic the short communication channels within offices (aka “yelling across the hall”), no matter how far apart the collaborators actually are. This becomes especially true with cloud-based web clients that can be accessed from any location and any device.
Version history and communication logs keep the whole team in the loop, preventing redundancies and data duplicates. Teams and whole departments can keep track of a project’s progress through collective checklists and collaboration workflows that send the right document to the right person at the right point in time.
What about data security when working remotely?
Potential loss of devices, badly secured internet connections, increased emailing of files – these are all major concerns when it comes to mobile working. And while some companies are (rightfully) hesitant at first to migrate their data into the cloud, a well-designed cloud-based ECM will actually increase data protection.
By making it easy for employees to work on remote servers (rather than downloading files onto their mobile devices), the data always remains at one place and loss of a device does not lead to loss of data. When sending emails, instead of attaching actual files, users can send a link to the location of the file within the cloud, resulting in smaller emails and less storage space on email servers, as well as ensuring that the file version sent is always the correct one.
Let’s be honest — some things cannot be replaced by technology: body language, team atmosphere, or creative strokes of genius during watercooler conversations, to name just a few.
Ultimately, it is up to every organization (and employee) to decide if the benefits of mobile working outweigh those of on-site work or vice versa, or whether a hybrid version is the way to go in their line of work.
But with an infrastructure in place that allows employees to choose the workplace that works best for them, employers can reap the benefits of a happier, healthier, more productive, and less expensive work force, making mobile working a win-win situation for everyone.