Mobile devices are changing not only the way we operate in our private lives but also the way we operate in our business lives. Workforce mobility has never been more prevalent.

Mobile phones are like mini-computers these days, but if they aren’t enough to get the job done, we have tablets and featherweight laptops. These devices ensure workforce mobility, but they require more work for IT departments trying to ensure network security.

A More Mobile Workforce

There’s no doubt about it—workforce mobility is on the rise. As mobile devices get smaller, more powerful, less expensive and increasingly accepted, we rely on them more and more.

According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), the number of mobile American workers is growing steadily and will account for almost three quarters of the total American workforce by 2020 (72.3 percent).

“Mobility has become synonymous with productivity both inside and outside the workplace, and the mass adoption of mobile technology in the United States has cultivated an environment where workers expect to leverage mobile technology at work,” said Bryan Bassett, research analyst, Mobile Enterprise Device Solutions at IDC. “This expectation will be supplemented by new solutions specifically intended to manage the challenges associated with the growing needs of the mobile workforce.”

Key findings from IDC’s mobile worker forecast include:

-Office-based and non-office-based mobile worker populations will stay in relative balance to one another throughout the forecast, with non-office-based mobile workers representing more than two thirds of the total mobile worker population.

-Manufacturing, construction, retail and healthcare workers are inherently more mobile and these industries are expected to see faster growth in their mobile worker population than other vertical markets over the forecast period.

-Healthcare workers represent the largest segment of the mobile workforce, accounting for 18% of the total U.S. mobile worker population when office-based and non-office-based healthcare workers are combined.

International Data Corporation (IDC)

Challenges for IT Departments

While workforce mobility increases, it raises security issues for which not all companies are prepared.

Everyone knows that PCs are under constant threat, but not everyone understands that mobile devices are too.

A few years ago, it wasn’t as much of a concern because cybercriminals hadn’t gotten around to challenging the mobile market. Not so anymore. In recent years, threats to mobile devices are on the rise.

Security issues are of particular concern in BYOD, or bring your own device, environments in which employees are free to use the mobile device of their choice.

– Kirk Porter, President of Avitus Technologies

While BYOD environments provide more flexibility for employees, they require more work on the part of IT departments to prevent attacks from increasingly sophisticated cybercriminals.

For a BYOD environment to operate securely, an IT department has to support a variety of devices and operating systems with the company’s information and communications technology system.

(Generally speaking, this mish-mash-of-different-technologies approach isn’t the best way to go about things if you want your devices secure and your IT department spending less time on maintenance and more time on strategic efforts.)

And Then There’s the Millennials

As the demographics of the American workforce change (i.e., the Baby Boomers retire, the Gen Xers get older, the Millennials take over and the next generation of workers – Gen Zers? – enter the workforce), use of mobile devices will only grow.

The significance of businesses addressing these challenges and the way in which employees want to work, while helping them to become more productive, is highlighted by the demand for flexible working and the influx of Generation Y into the workforce.

Only recently have businesses begun understanding and adapting to the way generation Y wants and expects to work, which is ‘mobile’ – not tied down to any desk – let alone preparing for the entry of generation Z into the workforce in another five to ten years’ time.


Increased Mobility, Increased Security Concerns

The proliferation and acceptance of mobile devices on the job have added an entirely new level of flexibility to the American workplace.

However, with increased mobility comes an increased security concern. Bottom line: the more mobile devices and the greater variety of devices and operating systems in play, the more your IT department has to jump.


By Charlie Smith