Work and Life in the Mobile Society/Work/Workers

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What is a mobile worker?

Today corporations of all sizes are undergoing a significant transformation, and we are witnessing the emergence and integration of a truly global mobile network. With the recent ‘incorporation of unified communications and advances in wireless technology’, opportunities for companies to integrate mobile workers into the organization has arisen (Kerravala, 2). A mobile worker is “anyone who performs their work in multiple locations such as customer sites, company offices, their homes, vendor offices, planes and hotels” (Richman, Noble & Johnson, 9). Whether the employee is working from home or across the globe they have the ability to remotely access all of the information, tools and communication capabilities of the corporate office instantaneously. A recent study issued by Cisco Systems Inc. projected figures showing that by 2009 one-quarter of the world’s working population will be a mobile worker. (Hakala, 1)

Mainly ‘the proliferation of high-speed networks, widespread public Wi-FI and fixed mobile convergence’ has made telecommuting, the ability to work from anywhere and at anytime, a possible reality (Williams, 1). However, the phenomenon has also spurred from employees demands of work-family balance plans (allowing more flexibility), and concerns over the lack of opportunities for those with disabilities and women. In addition, companies want to take advantage of the progressions in society to capitalize on their main resources, their employees, in order to maximize productivity and generate higher profits.

Issues That May Arise

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No matter what type of mobile worker you are classified as, working from different locations brings similar concerns and problems. With the ability for the office to communicate with you at any time and in any location there is a tendency for workers to become on-call “twenty-four seven”. Stress levels increase as workloads rise and employers hold higher standards and expectations for their employees. Those employees who spend larger portions of time out of the office may start to feel isolated, as the social aspect of their job has significantly decreased. As well, less face-time with superiors may result in lower pay, slower promotions and loss of fringe benefits.

Another issue that arises when dealing with mobile workers is security. Working with an array of technologically advanced devices and programs brings with it problems of data loss, fraud and other security breaches. Today the majority of business employees carry laptop computers and mobile handhelds with them at all time. With a drastic increase of communication taking place through e-mails or instant messaging, users must be aware of the potential for hackers as well as messages or attachments from unverified sources that may contain viruses. In addition, the wireless network can also be a threat when logging on to unknown sources of wireless Internet access (Hines, 1).

These two issues become interrelated when employee health can be affected by the use of computer devices. Recently, concern has been raised because as mobile workers spend a larger percentage of time using mobile devices, they are more susceptible to radiation affects and nerve or joint problems such as carpel tunnel syndrome. These issues which accompany mobile working are only amplified by employees becoming engrossed in the task at hand, and focusing on getting their work done as quickly as possible. In both cases it is the company’s responsibility to make sure that their employees are following standard health and safety guidelines as well as complying with strict policies to protect company information contained on technology devices. Since supervision of remote employees is more difficult, it may add costs. The proper measures must be taken by the company, however, in order to reap the benefits.


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When mobile workers are used to their potential the advantages for any business far out way the problems they may encounter. “The cycle of mobile technology is self-perpetuation. As tools mature the number of employees in each of these mobile classes will continue to increase” (Chickowski, 6). With the mobile population already at 650 million worldwide in 2004 projections show that by next year the mobile work force will constitute more than 850 million. (International Data Corp., 1) It is apparent that the mobile worker is starting to become the norm, and as technology continues to evolve and connectivity becomes ubiquitous, mobility will only flourish.


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