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Remote workforce grows more app-savvy, but email & phone remain kings

09 Nov 2016

'Surprising' findings have been revealed about mobile workforces and the tools they prefer to use, and the results differ between generations.

The survey, conducted by US-based West Unified Communications, gained responses from 300 remote workers. It found that generation X mobile workforce uses more collaboration apps (25%) than their millennial (18%) and boomer (10%) counterparts.

The survey also found that email and phone are still the primary means of communication for the remote workforce, with 75% stating they use both. However, 31% also use instant messaging apps such as Slack and Yammer, 30% use videoconferencing, 28% use web conferencing and 19% use collaboration apps.

With all these forms of communications, the survey found that more than a quarter of mobile workers feel the distance between other employees and their supervisors, which can sometimes lead to misinterpreted communication.

This was most widely felt amongst millennials (31%) than baby boomers (20%), suggesting that digital communication isn't the be-and-end all for the younger generation.

However there are still many reasons for choosing to work remotely, with 35% of respondents saying a sick child is a reason. Transportation issues (34%), avoiding long commutes (30%), improving productivity (30%) and avoiding office distractions (28%) were all top reasons for working remotely.

While respondents were positive about remote working in general, the survey found that employees don't want it to come between office culture, communications and career advancement.

47% of respondents said that they prefer office culture and therefore work remotely only some of the time. Younger mobile employees value autonomy while retaining communal culture.

Nearly a quarter of mobile workers, particularly millennials, were concerned that if the boss isn't around to visibly see staff work, it might hold those workers back from promotions and career opportunities. Conversely, 60% of mobile workers communicate with their supervisor in a 'direct and transparent' way many times during the day.

The survey also found that the more a company's policy allows for remote working, the more likely staff are to take advantage of that time. Within companies that allow remote working every day, 81% of staff use all of that time. When time is limited to several days per week, the number drops to 43%, and when limited to several days per month, only 15% of staff will use all available time.

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