News Feature | November 4, 2016

New Data On How Remote Workers Communicate

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

Field Service IT News For VARs — January 21, 2015

Though email and phone dominate, instant messaging and video/web conferencing gain ground.

Currently, as much as 25 percent of U.S. employees — a number sharply on the rise — actively participate in the mobile workforce according to Global Workforce Analytics. It is anticipated that, by 2020, the mobile workforce will comprise approximately three-quarters of our nation’s employees, IDC Research projects. And as 2020 looms, the move to mobilize is permeating verticals and businesses of all types as they prepare to meet these transformative challenges.

A West Unified Communications study on the mobile workforce set out to illuminate who these workers are, how they work, and how they feel about their remote work. In a survey of more than 300 full-time workers, The Remote Workforce Study found that, while they appreciate the convenience of mobility, they also long for the traditional workplace elements like office culture, face-to-face engagement, and career advancement. The research reveals some interesting statistics about how the remote workers communicate with in-office and other mobile staff. The white paper examines communication challenges, generational differences, preferred tools and more.

The study found more than 90 percent of millennials, Gen Xers, and baby boomers take advantage of remote work policies, but it also revealed there were no clear-cut distinctions by age. For example, while 69 percent of millennials currently work for companies offering remote work opportunities compared to just 40 percent of boomers, 95 percent of boomers use their company’s remote work policy compared to 83 percent of millennials who do the same.

The study authors wrote, “We found that younger workers are much more likely to use all their available remote work time. According to the survey, more than 60 percent of millennials fall into the ‘all’ category, compared to only one-third of baby boomers.”

And the vast majority of remote workers do so from home. Among those who opt to use other locations like coffee shops, cars, bars, client offices or other venues tend to be younger employees. Co-working spaces turned up as a seemingly ironic choice, but for some — particularly millennials, “Co-working spaces have been found to offer a unique blend of autonomy and community that for younger workers often yields better work than a traditional office.”

Among the study’s finding:

  • Email and phone is king. With 75 percent of respondents using both, email and phone continue to be collaboration technologies of choice for remote workers. However, tools like instant messaging (31 percent), video conferencing (30 percent), and web conferencing (28 percent) are gaining ground.
  • Miscommunication happens. More than a quarter of mobile workers feel their distance from other employees and direct supervisors can lead to misinterpreted communication.
  • The real tech-obsessed generation is…  About one-quarter of Gen X remote workers use collaboration apps compared to 18 percent of millennials and only 10 percent of boomers.

Ultimately, for companies offering remote work options, employers must confront the concerns and opportunities it presents. The study offers guidance on how to design a mobile work policy that addresses these issues, including continued prioritization of office culture, implementation of video communication and augmentation of existing communications.

“By creating a mobile working environment that emphasizes communication, enables career advancement and retains office culture,” the study concludes, “companies can ensure their employees are productive and satisfied — no matter where they work. With the right tools and policies to stay collaborative and connected, companies can greet 2020 — and the possibility of a mostly mobile workforce head on.”