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Are "Remote Employees" the Same as Having a "Mobile Workforce?"

October 30, 2017



The latest statistics on telecommuting in the workplace back up a trend that’s been observed over the past few years and one that you most likely have observed either among those you know or in your own career. An August 2015 Gallup poll reports that 37 percent of workers in the United States say that they have telecommuted as part of their job. While this represents a small (7 percent) jump from the numbers a decade ago, a perhaps more interesting finding is that workers say they telecommute as a part of their workday, rather than to finish things up at home after the workday has ended.

This indicates that the way people understand telecommuting has changed. People are no longer working remotely as an add-on to their workday. Rather, companies having employees who work remotely in order to handle part or all of their job responsibilities is becoming a more acceptable, and more popular, model for employment.

More and more workers are becoming what we think of as remote employees: those who work entirely from a location distant from a central office—be it from home, from a coffee shop, or from overseas. But the big buzz in the news these days is the mobile workforce, and so customers—or you yourself—may find themselves asking: When we talk about the mobile workforce, do we mean remote employees?

The answer, as you will see, is both yes and no.

The Many Faces of the Mobile Workforce

There are numerous ways that companies implement mobile devices in the workplace. A few of the current emerging paradigms are:

  • Bring Your Own Device (BYOD): In this setup, individuals can bring their own laptops and mobile devices with them to the office and use them in order to connect to business-related networks for work-related use and also use their own devices for work-related purposes at home.

  • Choose Your Own Device (CYOD): With CYOD, employees receive a selection of potential devices they can use while in the office as well as for whatever mobile needs come up—whether they are commuting to and from an office and need a work laptop to carry back and forth, are traveling internationally and need a tablet, or something else.

  • Part-Time Remote: This involves employees having to commute to work on some days but being allowed to work remotely on other days. They may use their own devices or office-owned devices in order to connect to work networks remotely, depending on office policies and IT infrastructure.

  • Full-Time Remote: This involves employees working from home entirely, sometimes for an enterprise that has a limited central-office presence, or none at all, and in which all or most employees connect to central servers using their own devices.

These are only a few of the potential approaches to having a mobile workforce, and within each of these models, there are countless questions and distinctions in terms of network setup, security, usage policies, and so on.

When broken out in this fashion, it’s easy to see that remote employees make up part of the mobile workforce, but not everyone in the mobile workforce is a remote employee.

So What Does it Mean for VARs?

Since the mobile workforce is varied and multi-faceted, there is a lot to know, but that also means there is a great deal of opportunity. Fulfilling mobile workforce needs is not a question of just whether employees are working remotely or not. Questions like the following play a role in determining a business’s specific setup:

  • How frequently are employees working remotely?
  • Where are they working from?
  • What are their technological needs?
  • How many employees are allowed to work remotely?
  • Is email managed on an internal server or through a third-party SaaS solution?

These are but a few of the questions you should ask your client in order to open up a thoughtful, thorough discussion about facilitating their adoption of a mobile workforce.

How have you seen companies successfully implementing mobile devices into their businesses?