Although the economy has been heading in the right direction over the past few years, many business leaders remain haunted by the last recession and have retained strict business cost controls. While cost containment strategies generally are prudent and fiscally responsible, some prolonged measures produce operational challenges that can be counter-productive.
For instance, pay increases over the past three years have been holding steady around a fairly anemic three percent, according to WorldatWork annual wage surveys. While employees accepted even smaller or no increases during the height of the recession because they were happy just to have jobs, Society of Human Resources Management research indicates job satisfaction rates have slipped fairly rapidly over the past three years. As a result, organizations are under increased pressure to retain staff.
With limited resources to increase wages, coupled with increasing pressure to manage turnover (and all of the associated costs that come with losing a productive staff member and recruiting and on-boarding a replacement), many business leaders are exploring new options to address retention.
One strategy ranked as a highly valued job benefit is offering workplace flexibility. In fact, studies have shown they value flexibility more than other perks and they would sacrifice wages for flexibility.
Progressive leaders are taking workplace flexibility one step further and regarding it not just as a retention tool, but also as a real estate savings tool.
Mobile Technology Supports Productivity
This growing demand for flexibility is being fueled by advancements in mobile technology – hardware, apps, the Cloud, wireless networks – that truly can free workers from the confines of the office and enable them to be as productive, or even MORE productive for numerous reasons: less time commuting; freedom from office distractions and interruptions; less time spent in non-essential meetings; more time to interact and collaborate with vendors, suppliers or customers.
Providing workplace flexibility doesn’t mean employers have to sacrifice all control. Geolocation and facial recognition apps enable employees to easily punch in and out or log their time in the field via their phones or mobile devices, while enabling supervisors to verify their staff are where they claim to be – which helps to reduce time fraud risks.
According to a recent Berg Insight report, smartphone-based workforce management apps enable small- and medium-sized companies without the resources to implement custom IT solutions to adopt mobile workforce management solutions. The number of users of smartphone-based workforce management services in Europe and North America is forecasted to grow from .8 million in 2012 to nearly 2.5 million by 2018.
Connecting Flexibility and Real Estate
Organizations that connect the dots between workplace flexibility workers and office space can reduce their real estate and related operational costs.
How? Real estate typically is the second largest expense for organizations, following right behind personnel. It can cost up to $10,000 per year to maintain a single workspace according to the GSA. Meanwhile, workspace utilization rates for many organizations may run 50 percent or well under due to business travel, vacations, leaves of absence, off-site meetings, and other factors.
Organizations that carefully measure and analyze their utilization rates in order to “right-size” their workspace needs to an increasingly flexible and mobile workforce can realize huge savings in real estate and personnel cost savings.
Workspace utilization measurement technology can provide highly accurate data and insights to support space optimization planning and ongoing monitoring for opportunities to adjust.
Space Optimization Strategies
Flexible workspaces – hoteling or hot desking, collaboration spaces, drop-in gathering areas – are gaining interest as workspace planning options to help increase space utilization rates. These arrangements help to provide a middle ground for mobile staff, those not needing a “permanent home” in the office but still need to spend varying amounts of time there for meetings, connecting with co-workers or “face time” with supervisors.
Some organizations leave mobile workers to their own devices to find a vacant desk, office or meeting room where they can work when they drop in to the office. Others may make shared workstations available on a first come, first served basis. Both options can negatively affect productivity if workers have to spend time hunting down open space or moving around when the rightful owner of an apparently open space shows up. And, mobile staff may be less motivated to drop in as often as they should if they don’t want to deal with the hassles.
The solution can be as simple as space scheduling and reservation systems. Cloud-based systems and mobile apps enable mobile staff to access these tools any time and from almost anywhere via their laptops or mobile devices to reserve space in advance of their visit and arrive at the office ready to hit the ground running – with the assurance they have a space to work and knowing exactly where they will be.
By exploring and using mobile workplace technologies, there are effective ways to leverage the mobile workforce trends to more effectively manage top operations costs – personnel and real estate.
Asure Software CEO Pat Goepel has more than 20 years of experience in the human resource outsourcing industry. Before joining Austin-based Asure Software, he was president and CEO of Fidelity Investment’s HR Services Division; president and CEO of Advantec; and executive vice president at Ceridian. www.asuresoftware.com
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