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Why you need to let your work force go mobile

This column is part of Globe Careers' new Leadership Lab series, where executives and leadership experts share their views and advice about the leadership and management issues of today. There will be a new column every weekday. Find all Leadership Lab stories at

Mobility has exploded in Canada and is changing the nature of how we do our jobs. The standard nine-to-five work day and cubicle office are quickly becoming things of the past. Work is now a thing you do, not a place you go to.

Many companies are beginning to benefit from a mobile work force – a work force that has the flexibility to work from anywhere, any time and on any device.

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The recent Citrix Mobility in Business Report, which surveyed 1,700 senior information technology decision makers, found that 46 per cent of Canadian companies (38 per cent globally) are adopting mobility to have a competitive edge.

Employees are bringing their personal devices into the workplace, and a new generation of workers is looking for organizations that give them the flexibility to be most productive, regardless of when and where the work gets done.

Sixty-three per cent of Canadian businesses have a mobile strategy in place, and another 21 per cent plan to implement a strategy in the next six months. With this in mind, here are three key ways to build an effective mobile work force.

1. Listen to your employees

Understanding and listening to your employees is key to a successful mobile work culture. Determine what devices your employees are most comfortable using, and what kind of access they need to enable them to do their best possible work. Employees often have a preference for which laptop, tablet and smartphone they use, and giving them a stipend or incentive that allows for that choice can be an attractive company perk.

Once this step is taken, develop a policy that accounts for these factors and enables your organization to securely manage corporate data that may reside on the various devices being used. Clearly communicate this policy to employees to ensure they understand what they can and cannot do, and leave an open line of communication for feedback. In my experience, most of these "new" policies are similar to existing corporate and IT policies.

2. Communicate the benefits

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The benefits of a mobile work force need to be clearly explained when trying to get buy-in from senior directors. Have some hard facts in your back pocket that illustrate both the financial savings and the health and wellness benefits to employees. While productivity increases may be hard to quantify, they are real and do contribute to the profitability of any organization.

The primary focus should be how becoming a mobile organization enables employees to do their jobs better. Canadian businesses have found that employees are more productive, more flexible, and ultimately more satisfied with their jobs.

The secondary focus should be on the business benefits. Canadian IT decision makers who were surveyed note that mobile work styles make it possible to execute tasks more quickly, create greater flexibility to meet customers' needs and reduce business costs, such as real estate. Companies might even look to reducing other benefits such as parking or transportation subsidies. However, it is always difficult to take something away that people feel entitled to. Don't be penny wise and pound foolish.

3. Have buy-in at all levels

A mobile work force is stronger when it is supported at all levels of leadership. This should be inclusive of senior business leaders in the company, as well as the human resources, legal and IT departments. If executives are invested in working from anywhere, on any device, employees will feel comfortable to embrace it as well. This will also build trust in your organization.

But this doesn't mean that face-to-face time is disappearing. Ensure that you schedule regular meetings or set days when everyone reports to the office. Establishing regular check-ins will create accountability and maintain a connection between staff. Collaboration tools like video teleconferencing and file-sharing programs can help maintain that connectivity in between those times when employees work from their place of choice.

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Building a mobile work force doesn't come without risks. But with the right strategies in place, your organization can embrace the latest technologies and stay competitive in an increasingly mobile world.

Michael Murphy is the vice-president and country manager of Citrix Canada (@citrixpr_canada), a global company that enables mobile work styles, allowing people to work and collaborate from anywhere.

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