What Makes a Great Productivity App for Mobile Workers?
Today’s mobile workforce requires modern, robust technology to boost productivity and ensure connectedness. In addition to laptops, iPads, and smartphones, employee productivity apps truly bridge the gap between deskless workers, in-office employees, and customers—all while increasing efficiency and engagement.
Mobile workers may be independent contractors, social services specialists, in-home healthcare providers, maintenance professionals, sales staff, nonprofit volunteers, or a variety of other roles. The number of deskless workers has increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, and mobile workers will soon represent 60% of all U.S. workers, so productivity apps for mobile workers are more essential than ever for successful operations.
Investing in the right productivity apps for your deskless workers leads to increased revenue, slower turnaround time, and overall business growth. To get the most out of a productivity app, it’s important to evaluate your options against some crucial features and company goals.
The Benefits of Productivity Apps for Mobile Workers
Deskless workers face unique challenges when it comes to remaining productive, as their conditions are far more complex than those faced by their in-office counterparts. By providing mobile employees with the proper tools for success, companies can overcome common challenges in the field and reap significant benefits.
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)-based apps help automate data entry, time tracking, payroll and similar administrative tasks, and are more accurate and cost-effective than file server storage. IT personnel can also cut down on day-to-day maintenance and focus their time on more important tasks. Cloud-based apps can capture work hours, healthcare patient stats, photos, invoices, and more, all in real time. Some productivity apps even allow for digital, contactless signatures, which further improve efficiency while keeping both employees and customers safe during 1-on-1 interactions.
This means faster turnaround time for the activities that matter most to customers, like scheduling the appointment and delivering the service. With a SaaS tool that streamlines day-to-day administrative work, this becomes a virtuous cycle: better data upfront means faster, more accurate scheduling with fewer changes after the fact, which increases productivity. When mobile workers can complete more jobs in a day, appointments are scheduled faster, customers are happier, and the cycle continues.
Communication is key to connecting deskless workers to each other, their in-office colleagues, and their customers. In the past, mobile workers’ communication was hindered by having to use multiple methods: Email, phone, text messages, and chat apps are often disconnected and require users to jump back and forth between platforms. Modern productivity apps for mobile employees streamline the process with one centralized place for communication, so deskless workers can stay up to date without missing a beat.
Companies with engaged workers are 21% more profitable than those that fail to engage their employees. While perks, benefits, and company culture are important, supporting and engaging deskless employees should also be a driving factor for any business with a mobile workforce. Productivity software that’s accessible on the go allows employees to specify duties they enjoy and track their job histories and performance. Leadership can use this data to factor in employee preferences (including scheduling preferences) when assigning work.
Employees who love using their work apps give positive company reviews, enjoy their jobs more, and are more productive than companies that lack robust technology. Plus, the consumerization of apps has led to increased expectations of the technology employees are provided at work. Delivering on those expectations with a better user experience improves the company’s brand as an employer, and attracts younger workers who put a premium on workplace technology.
The benefits of productivity apps for mobile workers are alluring, but not all apps are created equal. By choosing an app that only offers general functionalities, you’re risking decreased productivity and improper mobile workforce management.
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The Top App Features to Boost Your Mobile Workers’ Productivity
If you don’t know what to look for, narrowing down apps that offer the flexibility and capabilities required by your business can be a daunting task. When choosing a productivity app for your deskless workers, consider the key features that will help support your entire mobile workforce:
Time is money when it comes to software investments. The more user-friendly an app is, the faster it will be to train your deskless workers to use it, meaning ramp-up time will be significantly decreased. Employees that enjoy using their software are happy to do their jobs and to provide excellent customer service. Employees who struggle to navigate an interface will stop using the app or let the frustration boil over in customer interactions, which costs the company time, productivity, and, ultimately, profit. Digital tools that are easy to learn and use will better engage employees and reduce turnaround time for completed work.
When assessing apps, make sure both desktop and mobile interfaces have well-designed navigation, are easy to use with one hand, and that they include training resources to help employees and managers get up to speed quickly.
Ability to Work with Limited or No Connectivity
Mobile workers traveling from job-to-job may not have a consistently reliable Internet connection like in-office workers, which can greatly impact their productivity. An app that requires mobile data or strong WiFi to function is unreliable and causes miscommunication among clients, service providers, and stakeholders, which in turn costs the company revenue.
For successful, efficient service delivery, deskless workers must have access to resources, updated schedules, and optimized routes, regardless of where they are. Productivity apps that work with limited or no WiFi can automatically send alerts of last-minute appointment changes or save a “draft” of notes or updates from the visit, which is automatically synced with the system when the connection is restored. This is also particularly important for worker safety. If a mobile worker is involved in a car accident in a remote area, or a manager needs to find an employee’s last-known location, it’s essential that the app works with limited connectivity.
Deskless employees require work apps tailored to their highly mobile day-to-day duties. They often use smartphones and tablets on the job rather than laptops, and day-to-day work requires more travel and in-person interactions with customers than in-office workers. The right productivity apps for deskless workers give your business a competitive edge, while keeping the workforce satisfied and engaged.
Make sure any app you consider has these mobile-first features:
- Stores employee skills, shift and job duty preferences
- Offers real-time route optimization
- Provides note capturing abilities (for customer information, project scope, time tracking, etc.)
- Enables contactless signatures
- Alerts deskless workers of new assignments, schedule updates, and more
- Offers a centralized, secure system for customer data and team communication
Constantly checking email or texts for updates while working is time-consuming, distracting, and even dangerous for workers behind the wheel. It’s crucial that mobile employees, fixed-location workers, and customers can relay information to each other while on the go—everything from shift times and appointment changes to assignment details and updates, customer information, and more. And in order for deskless workers to have autonomy, they need a mix of both direct communication tools (i.e. SMS messages and push notifications from a mobile app) and contextual communication methods (i.e. location data for optimized routing).
An app that can broadcast alerts to individuals and teams while also letting users share photos, videos, and documents is like an office in your pocket that’s much more efficient than texts or phone calls when workers are on the move.
Integration with Existing Systems
SaaS and cloud-based tools have become ubiquitous in all industries. To make a worthwhile investment in a smart productivity app, it’s important to consider your existing, in-house IT investments. Research shows that advances in automation technology bring a higher need for integration. It’s time consuming and costly to manage every technology individually, but building and optimizing a sophisticated and seamless tech stack is efficient and cost-effective. It’s also faster to obtain and leverage data from a single platform, breaking down silos and enabling cross-functional collaboration.
If you already use a platform from a provider like Salesforce, Oracle, ServiceNow, or Microsoft Cloud, make sure any productivity app you consider can integrate easily with these tools. Ask for examples of how this integration has worked in the past to make sure the capabilities match your business needs.
Having data available on-demand through cloud-based apps can be risky. Secure integration of systems, as well as the ability to backup data regularly, are two important components of protecting your company and customer data.
Consider some best practices to boost security of your cloud apps:
- Avoid legacy systems: By choosing modern technology solutions and weeding out legacy systems and processes, you’ll free up time for your IT team to focus on proactive security strategies. SaaS offers easier configuration management (as infrastructure maintenance is reduced), which means better agility should your organization face any transition.
- Don’t stop at compliance: Many cloud providers offer security tools that adhere to government regulations like HIPAA, GDPR, and more. That’s a must-have for a modern workforce management tool. But you should also employ an approach of self-awareness that sets compliance as the baseline, with a larger understanding of how critical controls apply to a security function.
- Create a secure culture: This may seem obvious, but building a security-minded philosophy throughout your organization is key. Train your employees to remain self-aware, and maintain that culture through product development cycles, regular security reviews, 1:1 conversations with mobile workers, process management, and more.
Evaluating Employee Mobility Apps
The growth of the mobile workforce isn’t slowing down any time soon. To keep deskless workers productive and stay ahead of the competition, productivity apps are a necessity. When choosing the right app for your organization, it’s important to prioritize the essential features that improve the efficiency of deskless workers.
Skedulo’s Deskless Productivity Cloud includes an app specifically designed to fit the needs of mobile workers. A user-friendly interface, seamless interoperability, automated scheduling, real-time alerts, and streamlined communication drive efficiency and collaboration throughout the workforce.