Management paranoia hampers mobile working

2003

Mobile working has yet to fulfil its potential in Europe because senior management and HR Directors don’t trust their employees to work efficiently outside the office. So says research commissioned by technology consultancy LogicaCMG.

It revealed that 45 per cent of HR directors are concerned about their employees’ self-discipline to work effectively whilst out of the office. This mistrust appears to be exacerbated by the fact that 46 per cent of companies say they have no way of ‘monitoring’ mobile workers.

Of the companies that do encourage mobile working, most rely on what the report describes as “rudimentary and machiavellian” ways of monitoring staff performance such as logging mobile phone or Internet use and written reports to line managers.

The research focused on senior managers and HR directors at companies with more than 500 employees operating in the UK, France, Germany and The Netherlands.

According to a recent European Commission estimate, there are some 10 million "teleworkers" in the EU ranging from business travellers to the self-employed working at home.

The survey revealed that most companies’ mobile communications policies and strategies are lagging behind the technology they are intended to cover.

For example, training focuses almost exclusively on how to use the technology rather than the social issues around mobile working. In the UK, 62 per cent of training for mobile workers focused on technology use, with only 20 per cent devoted to effective communication techniques and 16 per cent on time management. “There is an irrational suspicion that if employees are out of the office they’re dodging work,” said Paul Barker, director of mBusiness at LogicaCMG. “However, people do need to travel to meetings and the irony is that by depriving employees of the tools they need to work on the move, employers are failing to get the best out of their executives.”

“The fast-paced development of mobile technology - with the introduction of powerful Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), multimedia enabled phones and ‘always on’ network connectivity, is dramatically improving the quality and sophistication of the mobile workforce solutions that can be delivered today,”said Barker.

“Companies need to come to grips not only with the technology, but also understand how it will change the way they do business. Otherwise they will miss out on the immediate opportunity to improve business process efficiency, reduce fixed infrastructure costs and increase revenues through more attentive and personalised service to customers.”

LogicaCMG research has shown that the French are the least enthusiastic about mobile working – only 44 per cent of French executives agree that a major benefit of mobile working was being able to work anywhere. In contrast, 85 percent of their British counterparts believed that working anywhere is a positive benefit.