How do you define mobile working?

Alan Price, employment law director, Peninsula

Mobile working can be split into full-time mobile working, part-time mobile working or a trial-basis arrangement. The former is a completely mobile workforce, whereas part-time is a requirement to attend a fixed office location for a set number of hours or days per week.

How can SMEs determine whether on-the-go working is a good fit for them?

Barnaby Lashbrooke, founder, Time etc

Businesses need a trusting culture in order to fully support remote working, which perhaps doesn’t work well in companies where
team members aren’t already given the autonomy and freedom to manage their own tasks and work patterns.

The benefits of mobile working are wide-ranging – in particular, the ability to cut out a commute, or be able to attend an important medical appointment without having to take the day off.

Donald Hislop, professor in sociology of contemporary work, University of Loughborough

For most organisations whose workforce is mobile, I don’t think that mobility is a choice – it’s an intrinsic feature of people’s jobs, from area managers and service engineers, to sales staff and delivery workers.

How can businesses determine which tools are the best?

Alan Moir, sales and marketing manager, TEFL

It depends on how the team prefers to communicate and what they’re working on.

Our IT team, for example, use Jira for managing projects, while our tutoring team use SkypeWhatsApp and Google Docs to chat and share files and teaching resources.

My team (sales and marketing) also use Slack to chat and share documents. It has lots of integrations with other products, so it saves time moving from one app to the next. With Slack, you can communicate with the whole team, a few team members, or have private one-to-one chats or calls.

Vince Warrington, founder, Protective Intelligence

A virtual private network (VPN) is an essential tool to keeping mobile and remote workers secure. It enables you to send data over the internet without it being intercepted, because the data is encrypted as it travels through the VPN “tunnel”.

There are lots of VPN service providers, so choose one based on the level of security that you need and ease of use, because your staff might not be open to using something that’s cumbersome on a daily basis.

What can SMEs do to ensure that both employer and employee are happy with mobile working?

Mr Moir, TEFL

Targets and objectives would remain the same in or out of the office, but when it comes to remote workers, there needs to be more of a conscious effort to communicate – and not just about work projects.

There’s a lot of office chit chat that they miss out on, such as the latest Netflix series is like, or what people got up to over the weekend.

Mr Hislop, University of Loughborough

Remote, mobile or homeworking does require a shift in mindset from management, because face-to-face management isn’t possible. Such working practices inevitably involve a degree of trust, where staff must be trusted to manage their time.

But for some types of work, where outputs can be quantified – such as data entry work, delivery and service work – it’s possible to use technology to set and measure performance targets.

What are the most pressing security issues that SMEs face?

Mr Warrington, Protective Intelligence

One of the big challenges is keeping the software on your remote computers and devices up to date.

Out-of-date software is one of the primary targets of attack by hackers, who know that older versions contain vulnerabilities to exploit. You will need a process to enable you to update remote devices and laptops on a regular basis.

On top of that, it’s important to make sure that you encrypt your data as much as possible.

The hard drives of your laptops will need encrypting, and there are options for phones and tablets. Encryption means that, should a device be lost or stolen, you can be confident that the data on it will be kept secure. You should also check that you can remotely wipe any devices, which introduces another level of security.

Mr Moir, TEFL

We install anti-virus software on all of our devices and send reminders to staff to update their passwords every month. Devices are also checked when they’re back at the office to see if they’re still fit for purpose and that all software is up-to-date.

What are the main challenges around mobile working tech?

Ged Cairns, mobile specialist, Brother

User acceptance testing is key to early adoption and use. It’s so easy to throw technology at people and expect them to use it out of the box and in the way that it was intended.

Also, back up any training conducted. It has to be intuitive and use the language of the worker, not the manager.

What new technologies will impact this space?

Mr Warrington, Protective Intelligence

We will see more use of voice-activated tech. Amazon is already engaging with developers to increase the scale and usability
of Alexa, which could have an impact in the field – a “speak an email while you drive” function, for example.

Mr Hislop, University of Loughborough

Smartphones, I think, are likely to be the key technology compared to laptops and tablets, due to their portability, weight and so on.
Investing in good smartphone tech and contracts is key.