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Growing numbers of employees across all areas of business are using low-cost, high-function mobile technologies to execute their work in and outside their offices.
Traditional real estate strategies, office designs and workplace practices must adapt to maximize benefits while effectively managing the transition to mobile work. The trend toward employee mobility presents an opportunity for businesses to improve productivity, collaboration and engagement while reaping substantial savings. However, realizing these gains calls for a change in mindset about how to manage processes, technologies and behaviors.
For many years, working in spaces outside the traditional office was restricted to sales people and other professionals who traveled frequently. Today, that trend is rapidly expanding as employees use readily available connectivity and virtual collaboration applications to work seamlessly across office, home and other locations.
The rise of mobility has many implications for the corporate real estate portfolio. Significant cost savings can be realized when companies invest in alternative, innovative workplace designs, technologies and practices.
This paper argues that companies must actively manage the transition rather than passively allowing their mobile work practices to reap the benefits while mitigating the risks.
Companies should aggressively evaluate the implications of a growing mobile workforce on their real estate portfolio, especially as the reality of how and where work actually happens has already overtaken official corporate policies.
Several factors such as readily available connectivity and collaboration tools are driving this change. By rethinking its real estate portfolio, a company can not only realize an improved footprint but also gain more flexible office space. Specifically, businesses can:
Reduce real estate and labor costs.
Improve employee engagement and retention.
Make collaboration more efficient through widely available collaboration tools.
Increase productivity by allowing mobile workers to select the best environment for their tasks.
Improve their environmental impact by shrinking workplaces and reducing commuting.
However, to successfully adapt to evolving workplace realities, companies need to consider more than just physical design. They also have to integrate the right combination of processes, technologies and behaviors.
A comprehensive approach to mobile work can address the potential risks and give companies the confidence to extend employee mobility more broadly. This requires a shift in mindset, from one that considers only cost savings to one that focuses on how people are managed, enabled and engaged through remote work.
Accenture has identified nine actions that companies must take to achieve a successful transition to the age of mobile work:
Analytics—Categorize jobs according to their mobility potential and develop an understanding of how employees are using the workplace and mobility-enabling technologies.
Employees—Consider the needs of employees at every level in the hierarchy. Companies such as SAP allow assistants to work at home through a webcam that streams to a desk interface in the office.
Choice—Ascertain preferences, as a mandatory program may trigger increased costs and liability in certain geographies.
Training—Coach supervisors and employees on how to work in globally distributed teams.
Health and safety—Ensure compliance with local regulations regarding work from home conditions.
Governance—Document flexible work policies. These norms should be considered not only a part of the HR program but also a strategic differentiator in the eyes of potential recruits.
Tax implications—Evaluate and document tax implications in each country where the program is offered.
Legality—Incorporate modifications necessitated by local laws that may vary by country.
Assessment—Conduct regular surveys and audits of remote working programs to flag problems and identify areas for improvement.
January 26, 2012
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