mobile-workerThree years ago (Installment I and Installment II) I began blogging and one of the first subjects I wrote about was mobile professionals. Call it what you will, tele-working, hotel’ing, flexible workspace, mobile professional, I’m sure there are more terms that come to mind. By the way, most of what I do for a living is provide organizations with consulting specific to “Information Workplace” like solutions. I cover topics such as organizational impacts, management of change, systems/technologies, information and system architecture as well as operations.  So back to the main topic and profiling a mobile professional. Essentially, people that fall into this category:

  • Don’t have an office
  • A cell  phone is their corporate number
  • Have laptops with wireless
  • Might have a mailstop at a local office sometimes
  • Speed lots of time travelling via car or plane

As a mobile professional (going on nine years), I can say I’ve developed a strong awareness of the benefits and pitfalls of this style of working. Yes, I understand why corporations want certain areas of the their workforce to be mobile whether it be to reduce real-estate costs or enable customer facing staff to be effective and efficient while on the road. As a sales person once told me, “nobody is buying in the office”.

So what are the specifics about working mobile? The pros and cons as they say? Well here are some thoughts based my experience and the views shared by co-workers and customers:

Pro’s Con’s
Flexible work environment No sense of home base
Working virtual Disconnected from people
Don’t have to drive to the office each day Flying or driving all the time
Not micro managed Almost never see or not ever meet your manager
Flexible hours and work schedule When your working, your working and captive since your usually in a foreign city
Travel the world on companies credit card Same as above and if its a dangerous city, your captive in the hotel
Your team is based on the project or deal at hand Difficult to build team, loyalties and team synergies lacking
Professional employees benefit from flexible work experience Lazy employees can slack off

Looking at the aforementioned pro’s and con’s it becomes apparent that certain personality types would excel whiles others would not. Many I work with love the mobility (Freedom) while others are tired of it and have either resigned from the company or complain a lot when travelling. On occasion I hear stories from colleagues about mobile professionals that became disconnected from family, home and friends and as a result suffered from various levels of depression – nothing a few pints wouldn’t cure? As one of my colleagues said when transferring to a local team “it’s great to be part of a local team again, I know my team and can go a beer once and a while”.

So the morale of the story is that companies must realize that mobile workforces have benefits but the personality and professionalism of the person must fit. Also, companies should expect that attrition will occur as marketable employees tired of travelling will leave unless managed accordingly. By the way, I’m yet to hear of a company that has figured this all out.