The mobile office
A portable computer and mobile phone enable
mobile staff to be more productive, spending more time with
customers, clients or suppliers and proportionally less time in
the office. In fact many people, even those in conventionally
non-mobile roles, are recognising the benefits of true
As technology improves, especially with the
forthcoming broadband wireless networks, many more staff will
want to work in this way.
In fact many of these people will start to work
more from home. In companies where this way of working is
already popular - for example professional sales teams in the IT
industry - e-mail processing, web-based customer research and
proposal writing is undertaken at home. This often happens in
the evenings, with customers visited during the day and
occasional trips made to the office or another venue for team
For these people, most of the home-working
considerations in the previous section apply. Additional
facilities issues around mobile working are outlined in the next
As well as the office and at home, fully mobile
staff may work at the following locations:
In a car, train or plane
At a railway station, airport, roadside
café, hotel lobby
At a third-party business centre
At a customer or other third-party's site
For the facilities manager, the first two of
these locations imply a minimal office, consisting basically of
the technology and whatever facilities happen to be available.
There are of course health and safety implications in ad hoc
For the second two locations, there is
considerable scope for specification of preferred facilities,
which would be formally defined in contracts and service level
Health and safety:
There are several risks faced by mobile workers
that do not exist in the office or the home. Apart from those
faced generally by mobile workers - for example road traffic
accidents and crime - facilities managers need to take account
Working whilst driving: some employers
insist mobile phones be turned off whilst driving, others
provide hands-free kits.
Theft of equipment: laptop computers are a
particular target, especially in the street and at railway
stations; carrying computers in normal briefcases or bags
reduces the risk.
Health and safety implementation at third
Additional risks from injury through poor
posture and working in non-optimal lighting conditions when
working on the move.
As with home working, the main issue is to be
aware of the risks and ensure they are adequately covered:
theft, personal injury, third-party liability. Most policies
exclude the theft of equipment from cars unless securely locked
in the boot.
Confidentiality and security:
The home working issues addressed in the
previous section are compounded for mobile staff, who often work
overlooked in public places or incur greater risks of equipment
In spite of the obvious risks, it is surprising
how many mobile phone calls are overheard on public transport
and how many documents can be read from screens. Once again the
solution is a combination of procedures and training.
One of the greatest obstacles to the use of
third party facilities has been employers' fears about security.
Many demand exclusive use of workstations and storage that can
not only be locked but also be stowed securely away.
Such fears may be justified or exaggerated: it
is necessary to make an assessment according to the merits of
the work involved, the sensitivity of the information accessed
or processed by staff at third party locations, and the
relationship between the employer and the third party
Conclusion - a strategic approach