5 Mobile Workforce Management Trends to Watch in 2020

As the number of remote workers continues to increase around the world—
growing by 91% in the last decade in the U.S. alone—employers are looking to adapt to a more distributed, more flexible workforce than ever before. Flexible work is growing in both popularity and importance to workers—in fact, millennial workers say how and when they work is more important than their salary.

This influx of mobile workers means new ways of working and new technologies to support them. Here are some mobile workforce management trends on the rise to look for in 2020:

1. A Renewed Focus on Employee Engagement (Especially for Mobile Workers)

Remote employees nowadays are looking for more than just a job when they join a company. They want to be more engaged in their work, and they want to give back to companies that put time and effort into their employees. 

Employee engagement affects nearly every part of employee life: recruiting, retention, satisfaction, and willingness to go “above and beyond” in everyday work. Engaged employees put more time and effort into their work, and they are more personally connected to the organization they work for. Highly engaged teams see a 41% decrease in absenteeism and a 17% increase in productivity—not to mention the improved environment that comes from a team of employees dedicated to the cause.

The benefits of an engaged workforce are too significant to overlook. With disengaged employees costing companies at least $450 billion a year, leaders should take a good look at how to engage mobile and remote employees in 2020. Think about ways to engage remote workers specifically, including:

  • Encouraging open communication among employees and leadership
  • Using mobile-friendly tools to share information and updates among teams
  • Making time to foster interpersonal connections outside of formal meetings
  • Encouraging employees to provide feedback to management (through surveys, listening sessions, etc.)
  • Celebrating personal milestones and team successes
  • Giving employees tools for better collaboration (i.e. sharing notes from virtual meetings, updating statuses to let in-office workers know when mobile workers are available)
  • Provide ongoing training and development opportunities to help employees sharpen their skills or discover new interests

Keep in mind that there are four generations (baby boomers, millennials, and Generations X and Z) in the workforce now, and they all have unique experiences with and feelings about technology. The tools your employees use, including mobile workforce management software, needs to be adaptable and intuitive enough to cater to different employee groups. 

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2. Better Awareness of Employees’ Mental Health Needs 

Mobile workers who are overworked, overwhelmed, or frustrated in their current work environment are more likely to struggle with mental health issues. High stress and poor mental health have a number of negative effects on employees, including lower productivity, low level of engagement, poor communication, higher rates of absenteeism, and even a decline in physical health and well-being. 

Nearly 1 in 5 U.S. adults reported dealing with a mental illness in 2016. Going forward in 2020, look for employers to take more steps to improve employee mental health and support employees dealing with mental health problems. 

Organizations can create a healthier workplace by:

  • Creating schedules and organizational policies that help employees balance work and personal needs
  • Reducing stress and other mental health risk factors in the workplace
  • Making employees aware of HR resources and other support available to them
  • Providing training career development opportunities 
  • Recognizing and rewarding employee contributions and milestones

Companies with a mobile workforce should consider how well their current tools support employees’ mental health. Do mobile workers know what their upcoming day/week will look like? Do mobile workers feel prepared when they arrive on the job site? Do they have easy access to the forms and documents they need? Can they collect feedback and signatures easily from customers? Do they have enough time to travel between job sites?

Expect more companies to turn to mobile workforce management to answer these questions. Mobile workforce management tools help organizations support their mobile workers with easy access to schedules, job details, and customer history on the road.

Take Solace Pediatric Home Healthcare for example, where their clinicians travel to and from their patients’ homes throughout the course of the day. With a mobile workforce management tool, they were able to reduce several major causes of stress—double-bookings, no-shows, poor communication, and long travel times—to create a better experience for clinicians. Now Solace’s clinicians are now able to spend less time stressing over administrative work and more time doing what they love and are experts in—caring for patients and their families.

3. A Rise in Remote Work from Remote Areas 

The flexibility of remote work means these employees can take up residence in big cities or small towns. Employees are increasingly choosing smaller towns and remote areas where housing costs are lower, in addition to cheaper parking fees, general cost of living, and even internet and phone service. Groups like Grow Remote and Rural Innovation Initiative are leading the charge to attract remote workers who can revitalize small towns. 

This subset of the remote workforce has the chance to make a salary comparable to those offered downtown while residing in a rural area where the cost of living is considerably lower. Some places, like Vermont, will even pay you to move there and work remotely, as long as your company is based outside of the state. 

4. More Focus on Cybersecurity for Mobile Workers

The growth of the mobile workforce presents unique challenges for cybersecurity. Employees who are working outside the office are more likely to:

  • Connect to unsecured WiFi networks
  • Discuss sensitive information via chat or email
  • Mix personal and professional equipment, software, and data
  • Try to resolve their own IT issues
  • Be victim of “shoulder surfing,” where someone looks over the worker’s shoulder to get information without ever touching or hacking the device
  • Have hardware stolen

As a result of these risks, more than one-third of companies have experienced a security incident due to some type of unsecured remote work. 

In 2020 and beyond, expect more companies to roll out remote work policies that dictate:

  • How company-owned equipment should be used
  • How personal electronic devices should be used
  • How company tools should be used (i.e. document sharing platforms, apps, video conferencing platforms, chat tools, project management systems, etc.)
  • How sensitive data should be shared or encrypted
  • Specific steps to take after a security event or a breach
  • How often to update operating systems, applications, networking software, security tools, etc.
  • How to use password managers, multi-factor authentication, or virtual private networks (VPNs)

For companies that already have a remote work policy in place, expect updates and enhancements in 2020 and beyond. Cybersecurity is an evolving field, and companies will need new tools and processes to defend against the next generation of threats to company data. 

Also, look for companies to invest in more ongoing cybersecurity training. The typical model of a one-size-fits-all training session delivered yearly is not enough for mobile employees to retain and apply cybersecurity principles in everyday work. Expect more companies to use new learning techniques like simulations and games (which are currently only used by 31% and 14% of UK companies, respectively) to reinforce training and processes. 

5. Evolving Definitions of Employees and Contractors

Contractors and contingent workers are a key part of the mobile workforce at many companies. They benefit from flexible work arrangements that can scale up or down as needed, but they don’t receive the same benefits as full-time employees (and often have trouble accessing employee-facing systems or information). Organizations that use a mix of contractors and full-time employees to reach their customers face unique mobile workforce management challenges: supporting different schedule requirements, system access, and employee engagement needs for each group. 

The future of mobile workforce management for contractors and employees will depend on how each category is defined. California passed a law in September 2019 requiring companies to treat contractors as employees unless the contractors are performing work “outside the usual course of a company’s business.” It remains to be seen how this will play out for companies with a large contractor base, but since California is often a leader in U.S. employment laws, the new law has the potential to transform the gig economy

To stay competitive in 2020 and beyond, companies need robust systems that can manage the needs of both contractors and employees. This allows for better information-sharing, more collaboration, and a better experience for contractors and employees alike. Mobile workforce management systems need to be flexible enough to work for both groups, but robust enough to reflect important legal differences between employees and contractors. 

Preparing for the Future of Mobile Workforce Management

The coming year will bring many interesting developments in mobile workforce management—improved employee engagement and mental health awareness, increased focus on cybersecurity, and more definition around the roles of employees and contractors. 

With the right mobile workforce management platform, you can set yourself up for success in an increasingly remote, collaborative, and mobile-first environment. Request a demo to see how Skedulo can help you better support your mobile workers.