Mobile workers have been relying on home WiFi and cellular data networks for over a decade. These technologies have ushered in revolutionary change to the work environment, allowing employees to access data and cloud applications on their devices from almost anywhere, any time. Over the years these networks have become faster and able to handle greater capacity, but is the experience any better? For many mobile workers the answer is often no.
From law enforcement officers to delivery drivers, utility workers and road warriors, employees based out in the field are particularly impacted by slow or intermittent data connections.
In fact, connectivity is such a weak point for so many of us that it ranks as the top frustration for mobile workers. Connections that are slow or drop unexpectedly. Devices that appear to be connected to a network but actually aren’t. Connectivity issues cause huge losses in productivity. And for workers like delivery drivers whose KPIs are tied directly to the performance of their mobile devices, time spent troubleshooting poor connectivity can mean a lower salary. For police officers, connectivity problems aren’t just an inconvenience, they can be a safety issue.
“Technology is a double-edged sword in most organizations – it can be an enormous time-saver, but it can also be a drain if things aren’t working well or people don’t know how to use the tools provided to them,”– John Reed, Executive Director, Robert Half Technology
The result is that companies today are wrestling with how to deal with connectivity problems for their field workers. They want their employees to be digital, but connectivity issues are constantly in the way. With 72.3% of our total workforce expected to be mobile by the end of 2020, connectivity needs to be a top priority.
- Do they wait for 5G and hope that it will solve their connectivity problems? Yes, 5G does look promising, but the devices and data plans are prohibitively expensive, and there’s no guarantee that connectivity issues will be resolved unless better device and application management tools and policies are adopted.
- Should IT allow an organization’s mobile employees to connect to public WiFi, despite the security issues? If so, what kind of login procedures and multi-factor authentication do they require?
In late 2019, NetMotion conducted a study of several hundred mobile workers to uncover and document the most common frustrations encountered during remote working. Unsurprisingly, connectivity ranked extremely high, with four of the top ten issues all relating to network concerns.
4 in 10
40% of mobile workers list some kind of connectivity issue as their most frustrating workplace challenge
A huge 1 in 5 of all employees rank slow network speeds as the most frustrating thing about mobile working
Case study: Cox Communications
Cox Communications, the third-largest cable provider in the U.S., delivers voice, video and data services to approximately six million residential and commercial customers. Every year, its 3,500 field-service technicians handle more than six million work orders.
Technicians use mobile devices connected to a cellular network to access the work order management system. However, the company noticed that a disproportionate amount of time was being spent on getting a connection for each work order. Field staff were frequently forced to call and text the back office for customer information whenever a connection could not be made.
By investing in better technologies to manage the performance of the networks that devices connect to, Cox field workers enjoyed higher connection speeds and immediately eliminated connectivity problems. Field technicians were able to get always-on access to the entire backend work order management system, dramatically reducing the number of voice and text interactions with the back office and ultimately helping the company deliver better service to customers.
Advice for improving employee experience
- Adopt tools designed to ensure application persistence when mobile devices roam from one network (cellular and/or WiFi) to another network without drops or lags.
- Where possible, implement smart policies that prioritize mission-critical application data traffic over non work-related applications, especially in poor network conditions.
- Ensure you have a strategy for acceptable employee WiFi usage, and that all public WiFi hotspots used by employees are monitored for security risks.
- Ask your carrier about their 5G rollout (as well as emergency services networks), device costs and plans to see if and when