Maximizing Productivity in a Flex Work World
By Mike Stadelman
Recent technology advances have enabled employees to access company information to do their job tasks from wherever they choose to work. The days of being tethered to a desk and desktop are no more, and geographic limitations have largely been lifted. Certain jobs that were once bound within the walls of the company can now be completed by contracted workers, who are hired for their specialized skills to more efficiently finish a task.
With more and more employees working from remote locations during times that best suit their schedules and lifestyles, the definition of “typical business hours” is transforming. The amount of mobile, or remote workers, is growing fast. IDC predicts that the U.S. mobile worker population will grow at a steady rate over the next five years, increasing to 105.4 million mobile workers by 2020, ultimately accounting for nearly three quarters of the total U.S. workforce.
Though work flexibility is a major employee benefit, it can often leave business owners wondering (and worried) about how to ensure productivity within this new, free-form work environment. For service-oriented small businesses like agencies that rely on billing systems to keep track of their employees’ time spent on projects, this new world order is adding many levels of complexity.
The bottom line is that the flex work world is here to stay, and businesses that take steps to operate within this world will prosper. Here are three best practices that will not only help you embrace employee mobility, but also benefit from it, and allow your small business to grow:
- Maintain consistent lines of communication. Keeping virtual and remote employees connected to the business is critical, and the best way to do so is to communicate with them regularly. This is especially true for contracted workers who may only work with the company part-time or for a specific job. Set up recurring calls with your mobile and contracted workers to ensure they’re up-to-date with details from all on-site company announcements and meetings and are staying on track to complete tasks. No need to just rely on phone and email alone. There are also a variety of workforce management tools, such as Slack, Yammer and Azendoo, which facilitate communication and collaboration between employees – both remote and non-remote. Not only will this allow the remote employees to feel more in tune with the organization, but it will also help streamline project management and workflow, while supporting a team-driven environment.
- Invest in technology that automatically tracks productivity. Tracking the status of current projects or time it takes to complete them is vital to business success, especially if you rely on a time-based billing system. Monitoring this information is certainly more complicated with mobile and contracted employees, who, for the most part, operate on their own schedules. By investing in cloud software applications that capture time spent on tasks and allow remote workers to easily input project statuses, you’ll gain greater insight into your business and feel more confident in your ability to delegate jobs between contracted, in-house and mobile employees. This will also help you to better understand the value of a contracted worker, and which jobs truly require an outside specialist for the best possible results.
- Integrate applications across the business model. Even small businesses have multiple departments, like finance, HR, sales and support, each leaning on their own applications to complete their day-to-day tasks. While you may consider keeping these tools separate, integrating a single, collaborative platform that includes key applications like CRM, time and billing and financials will eliminate unnecessary steps and automate administrative tasks that would otherwise take time away from value-added projects. An integrated platform will also facilitate data sharing across departments that can provide relevant and valuable insights to colleagues in real-time.
While the rise of the mobile workforce is already in motion, there’s no need to feel apprehensive about how it might affect your business. If you take the necessary steps to engage and include remote and contracted workers, you’ll not only see the positive effects it has on your employees, but also on your company’s workflow, time management and customer service skills. In fact, a recent study by TINYpulse revealed that of the surveyed U.S. employees who work remotely at all times, 91 percent asserted they get more work done outside of the office. It’s time to relieve your business of its geographical constraints and enable a workforce that is both equipped with the right tools and information and free to work at their own leisure.
Mike Stadelman is the director of marketing for Exact U.S Cloud Solutions and Exact JobBOSS Shop Management Solutions. In this role, Mike focuses on bringing to market business software for manufacturers, wholesalers, professional service firms, and accounting firms. With over 20 years’ experience in the manufacturing and professional services industries, Mike has keen insights on the latest trends and issues facing today’s SMBs. Leveraging this knowledge, he employs current marketing technologies and best practices to drive business growth and customer retention.
Twitter handle: @ExactOnline_US