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Move Over Telework: Welcome the Age of the Mobile Professional

Mobile Professionals. Digital Nomads. Technomads. E-workers.  These are some of the terms used to describe the current way many workers engage in work.  Well beyond the traditional, regularly recurring alternative worksite which is normally associated with telework, these digital nomads can work almost anywhere, anytime, with the right technology tools.

Gallup’s 2017 “State of the American Workforce” report found that from 2012 to 2016 the percentage of employees working remotely increased from 39% to 43%.  Additionally, when workers were asked which attributes were most important to them when considering taking a job, “greater work-life balance and better personal well-being” was second only to “the ability to do what they do best”.  Offering flexibility can be an important differentiator when competing for talent and retaining your best employees.  Additionally, it promotes overall employee wellbeing, reducing stress and increases engagement. In order to effectively transition to the mobile professional age, organizations and HR professionals should keep the following in mind:

1. Setting expectations.  Are their certain hours in the day when the employee must be available? Are there in-office meetings that they cannot miss?  Make sure expectations are set up front, particularly around overall performance standards (e.g. essential tasks and functions, excellent customer service/client care).  Tying these expectations to the vision, mission and goals of the organization is key to keeping things on track.

2. Technology needs.  Laptops, tablets, and smartphones are almost always essential tools for the mobile professional.  It is important to understand who will pay for them, who will own them, and the expectations around their use. Recognize that the content on devices may be subject to disclosure in the event of legal challenges.

3. Compliance matters. In addition to technology, employers need to think through the implications for compliance matters, particularly wage & hour laws (think Fair Labor Standards Act) and workers compensation for injuries. The law often lags behind the fast pace of change in the workplace. With careful planning that lag should not be seen as a barrier.

4. Communicate, communicate.  As in many aspects of life, communication is key. Employees must feel comfortable communicating with their peers and supervisors and feedback amongst groups must be fluid. Training on effective communication skills is always a good idea and can be especially effective in helping an organization be successful in the mobile age.

A culture of trust is essential and leaders set the tone. Allowing employees to have more flexibility over the time and place where their work is accomplished is a strong indicator of trust. And a culture rooted in trust provides a strategic advantage for any organization.