So, how do we classify a mobile employee? – This is the on-the-go-employee, “road warrior” that primarily works out of a car, work truck, airport gates, hotels, or coffee shops. These mobile employees occasionally come to the office or work from home. (If you’re looking for advice for full time remote employees working from home or satellite office instead of being road warriors, read What Technologies Do I Need for Employees to Work from Home?)
Why have mobile employees anyway?
- Fast Pace of Business – The speed of business requires many companies to put employees in the field and empower them with the tools they need to do their jobs away from their desks.
- Face Time with Clients & Prospects – Technology improves communications, but many companies struggle to have strong relationships with their clients and prospects without face-to-face meetings.
- Expand Geographic Reach – The cost of setting up a remote or second office is costly, so the only way you can expand your company’s reach cost-efficiently is to utilize road warrior employees.
Types of employees working on the road:
- Sales – Some businesses operate globally purely via the internet, however, many businesses still require face-to-face interactions with prospects, clients, and teaming companies (like subcontractors in construction). A good sales person is rarely in the office because they’re out beating the street meeting with people.
- Technicians – Our construction clients have over 80% of their workforce in the field and many manufacturers have mechanics and support technicians in the field to service clients. These team members may report back to the main office once a month or less for meetings or training, so their “office” is their jobsite trailer or work van. They need to be agile, yet have all the tools they need because the company doesn’t make money while they’re sitting in the office or running back and forth to get supplies and tools.
- Information Gatherers – Professional service firms, such as site surveyors for geotechnical engineers or auditors for CPA firms, require their experts to visit the client’s property or office. Much like the technician, these team members rarely see the main office and need to work independently, yet their job requires that they report data back to the main office for other team members to continue aspects of the work.
- Executives – In today’s business environment, most executives do not sit behind a desk and watch the employees do all the work. Executives assist in sales, attend conferences and peer groups, make PR appearances, and may do high-level consulting on client projects. When a executive is away from the office, it is more important for that person to stay in communication through dashboards, email, and phone. (Executives and key people may also need to stay connected when on vacation.)
These team members may be on the road, but they still need access to vital information and tools to do their jobs efficiently and within a timely manner.
Considerations - What tasks do employees need to complete?
- Email – We live in a 24/7 world and a client will not settle for you to go to the office to check your email. Email allows multiple people to voice their opinions on their time without an additional meeting and keeps them in the loop. It is also the primary way most businesses share information outside of a core application like a construction management program or dealer management software.
- File Access – Mobile employees need access to your data to take care of clients, report information back to the main office, and to get real time metrics. They may utilize a core application, such as a CRM (Client Relationship Management) or need direct access to your file server.
- Consistent Communication – The challenge with a mobile workforce is communicating with them because many of these employees are never in the office, so stopping by their office or holding a company-wide meeting is not practical. They need to be tied into the company to stay abreast to what is going on and to feel a part of the team. At a minimum, they will need a smartphone to contact customers and to be reached by other team members.
- Backups & Updates – Most field employees do not need access to the backups themselves, but you cannot forget to back up their computers and mobile devices. Because mobile employees do not have the stability of an office, their equipment is most likely to be damaged or lost and to miss regular updates.
Technologies for Employees On the Road
Workstations – Just because your field employees don’t sit at a desk, doesn’t mean they do not need a workstation. They may not be able to use multiple monitors like someone working from the office or at home, but they need a laptop, tablet, and or smart phone. They potentially may need a scanner depending on your operation’s workflows. You can protect those devices with rugged cases and even use an app on their phone to forward calls to their own extension as if they are in the office.
Access to Data – To do their jobs remotely, field employees need to access your company’s data via a core application, which requires internet access such as a WiFi card (commonly known as MiFi). You can monitor and throttle their data plans including filtering access to adult websites or preventing employees from burning through their data plans streaming movies (they can access movies when on WiFi, like when staying at a hotel).
Mobile employees may need access to data, but they do not necessarily need access to everything. Set up an access management plan for your company, office, and mobile employees, by roles to ensure employees can get what they need to do their jobs. Keep in mind if your company is required to comply with industry compliances such as HIPAA in the medical field or FDIC for banking, you may need extra protections and protocol in place.
Backing Up Their Data – It is fairly easy to back up remote employees data and is done in real time if your company uses a cloud-based core application, but that does require a constant internet connection. You can also set up your field employees’ devices to automatically back up when connected to a secure WiFi connection.
Protecting Your Data – Theft or losing a device is one of the most common data breaches for mobile employees. Ensure your data and network is protected by requiring a login or passcode to all mobile devices (laptops, tablets, and smartphones). You can further protect your company by encrypting hard drives, even if you just do it for laptops since they are more susceptible to being stolen then a desktop computer.
Do not let your IT support team neglect your mobile employees. They still need up-to-date anti-virus updates and patch management, which may require an employee leaving a laptop on overnight one night a week to be updated on a schedule.
Fleet Management – If you have company vehicles in the field, you may need a way to see your remote employees’ location for safety and efficiency reasons, as well as get vehicle diagnostics.
A good IT firm can help you with each of these technologies to make your field employees more efficient or to start utilizing a mobile workforce so you can further grow your company.