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Are SMBs Doing Enough To Support Mobile Workers?

Membership in the mobile workforce is growing rapidly, but a new survey from a remote connectivity vendor suggests that businesses may not be doing enough to support their employees' mobility needs.

Membership in the mobile workforce is growing rapidly, but a new survey from a remote connectivity vendor suggests that businesses may not be doing enough to support their employees' mobility needs.According to research firm IDC, more than a third of the world's workforce will be mobile by the end of 2013. (That figure includes office-based, non-office-based, and home-based mobile workers.) The U.S. already had 72.2% of its workforce mobile in 2008, and that number is expected to rise over 75% by 2013.

A new survey by Citrix Online, however, indicates that small businesses may be slow to embrace the needs of this increasingly mobile workforce. The survey of 210 businesses with fewer than 1,000 employees was conducted last month and produced some surprising findings. The first surprise is how few workers report becoming more mobile in their work habits over the past five years: a full 46% said no. That figure seems counterintuitive, and one possible explanation is that many of those who said "no" were working mobile quite a bit already five years ago and just haven't seen an increase since then. Another explanation was offered by Citrix Online vice president of business development and product marketing Kathy Chill, who told InformationWeek SMB, "I believe what you are seeing is a reflection of the way the respondents define mobility. If mobility is defined as engaging in business travel more, respondents may not feel that they have increased their mobile work habits in the past 5 years. This is likely how they perceived the question."

Chill is confident, though, that that's a misleading statistic. "When mobility is defined as being empowered to work from home and while away from the office," she said, "workers have become much more mobile.Most everyone has a mobile device of some kind today and employees are leveraging these devices to be more effective at work."

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But are those workers getting support from their employers for that leverage? That brings us to the second surprising result: when asked if their current business provides "mobile tools and resources to help increase work productivity," a full 60% said No. And when the "No"-sayers were asked if they supplied their own mobile tools, half said yes. First off, that gives a clue as to how many employees really aren't working mobile: 60% don't get mobile tools from their employers and half of those don't supply their own, indicating that 30% of workers really aren't mobile (rather than the 46% suggested by the previous question).

Secondly, though, that still leaves 30% of employees who are having to supply their own tools to support their mobile working. (Of those, 39% said they supplied a notebook computer, 22% supplied a smartphone, 10% supplied their own remote access software, 12% their own shared calendar tools, and 39% some other tool.) Read that again: nearly a third of small business employees are working remotely but relying on their own tools to do so. That indicates that small businesses are lagging behind one of the most significant and pervasive trends in the modern workforce. As Chill says, "The findings of this survey reflect a strong disconnect between employee and employer on the value of mobility tools. These survey results underscore the notion that small business owners have not fully recognized the link between mobility and business productivity-indicating a misconception of mobility's impact on the day-to-day operations of business. Moving forward, small businesses will need to modify their approach towards mobile working in order to optimize business results."

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