In 2009 I went to Microsoft’s developer conference, TechEd. This was the same year that the first iPhone was released, and the mobility movement was just starting to build steam.

People were excited about mobility’s potential, but no one knew exactly what the future would hold. I still remember one of the TechEd presenters saying how great it would be if users could have the same level of access to IT infrastructure at home as they do at work.

You couldn’t have that kind of conversation back then without also discussing risks and technical limitations. For many organisations, the risk of a mobile data security breach did not outweigh the productivity benefits.

How times have changed.

Over the last eight years I’ve watched that TechEd presenter’s vision become reality. Employees are no longer stuck at their desks. They can work securely and safely from anywhere with an internet connection.

In this post we’ll cover the whats and whys of mobility for individuals and organisations.

I’ll also outline what makes a great mobile working environment.

You can also read my blog on mobility and security here.

Why mobility is good for work/life balance

These days, organisations generally expect employees to access emails and documents on their phones. Some people think this intrudes on their personal lives. I disagree, and I’ll use my grandfather as an example.

My grandfather used to catch the train to work. He’d read the newspaper on the way in, and then rush from the station to the office to avoid being marked as late.

At his workplace – and in many others of the time – employees signed into work on a sheet of paper at reception. At 9am sharp, a red line was drawn underneath the last name. Anyone after that line was late, and in trouble.

It’s a different story today. When I look at passengers during my commute, I see people on their phones, kindles, laptops and tablets. No one reads newspapers on trains anymore. Instead they’re checking emails or reviewing reports on their devices.

Their workday doesn’t start by 9am when they’ve signed above the red line. They have the flexibility to work where and when it suits.

This means that parents can work from home when their kids are sick. They can come into the office later after a school assembly, or a doctor’s appointment. It also means I can read lengthy documents on the train and avoid being interrupted at my desk.

But how do you stop your job getting in the way of your life outside work? Here’s what I do: I have my work and personal email accounts set up on my phone, but I only allow notifications for new emails from my personal account. I choose when I’m ready to work, not the other way around.

It’s a win for organisations, too. By giving employees the freedom to work in a way that lets them get the job done, employers benefit from increased productivity.

Create a mobile work environment to get the best from your teams

A great mobile work environment starts with flexible IT infrastructure. Your IT equipment needs to perform the same both in the office and outside of it.

At a minimum, employees should have mobile access to email, documents, internal communication channels and line of business systems.

Email

Email was the first piece of IT infrastructure to go mobile. Do you remember when Blackberry devices were all the rage for company executives back in the early 2000s? As a result, most organisations have a good understanding of how to set up mobile-friendly, secure email infrastructure.

Company documents

Giving employees mobile access to documents is more difficult. You have to ensure that documents remain secure, ensure that documents remain secure, and ensure that documents remain secure.

Check out our 5 practical tips for protecting your organisation here.

Unified communication

When you’re working on a train, at home or in a café, collaborating with colleagues should be as seamless as when you are in the office. You need to be able to call. You need to be able to work on documents together, and you need to be able to discuss ideas.

There are plenty of tools to help organisations communicate with mobile workers. Even traditional phone systems can be used with just an internet connection. With Skype, for example, you can chat to others using VoIP, text, share a desktop or use video for face-to-face communication.

Skype for Business is similar, except that it connects an employee to the company’s phone and video conferencing systems. All of these actions support enterprise grade functionality and can be recorded if required. Skype for Business is available on premise or in Office 365 with the right setup.

Mobility has come a long way in eight years. I’ll bet that the TechEd presenter from 2009 is impressed with where we are today.

To find out more about creating productive mobile work environments using SharePoint 2016, contact us.

You can read more about Professional Advantage and SharePoint here.

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