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Mobile Working Causes Absenteeism

Research by B2M Solutions has concluded that instead of saving costs, mobile working could be costing UK businesses £1.18 billion per year, as 40% of mobile workers attribute time taken off work to stress and anxiety caused mainly by reliability issues with mobile devices.

The Research

The B2M Solutions ‘Mobile Impact Survey’ gathered the opinions of 200 mobile workers in the US and UK who said that the mobile device they used at work was a critical tool that they needed to complete their work tasks, and that device reliability was of the uppermost importance.

What’s The Problem?

According to the B2M Solutions research, there are several elements involved in causing stress and anxiety-related ailments in mobile workers including:

  • Not offering employees the resources they need. The research indicates that although businesses are giving more responsibility and arguably more freedom to their employees, there is a lack of investment in tools to ensure that the critical mobile devices needed to perform these new tasks are operating correctly, and can be depended on. When the devices don’t perform as they should, this creates frustration and stress in users. The B2M research showed, for example, that device issues in the field like battery failure (40%) or poor Wi-Fi coverage, and crashing apps, led to 16% of mobile workers taking at least one day off work in the last year. This figure includes the 7% who took six or more days sick leave as a result.
  • Always being connected to work and switched-on. The blurring of lines between work time and your own time, and always being reachable by employers / colleagues makes it difficult to escape an underlying level of stress.
  • Being unable to complete tasks, as well as customer anger and rudeness as a result of mobile device failure causing increased stress and anxiety levels.

Didn’t Tell Managers

The research also revealed that a quarter of mobile workers haven’t told their managers or IT departments that their equipment is failing because they didn’t think that anything would be done about it.

Huge Cost To Business

In addition to the human suffering caused by stress and anxiety, the cost to businesses, many of which are unaware of the problems because their employees haven’t told them and / or because they haven’t checked, is estimated to be huge. For example, according to the research, if the findings are applied to the entire US mobile workforce, the cost of sick leave from stress or anxiety caused by device reliability problems to the US economy is around $8.6bn per year. If you add this figure to the UK research results, the coat to both economies is $10.2bn.

In fact, even the ‘True Cost of Ownership’ figures from the research don’t include additional potential financial impacts e.g. paying overtime to remaining workers to pick up their sick colleagues’ excess work, any financial penalties for missing customer deadlines, any brand reputation damage, insurance claims or even the cost of out of court settlements for some workers who can’t return to work.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

It is likely that we all have some experience of the frustration and stress that technology failures and hold-ups can create, particularly when we are against the clock and a customer / colleague / boss is waiting. The cumulative effects of this kind of stress over time, coupled with a feeling that you’re on your own i.e. nothing will be done even if you report it, is bound to be demoralising, and it is no surprise that absenteeism from stress and anxiety and the knock-on financial impacts on the company are the results.

In the light of this research, businesses may benefit from taking more proactive steps to predict and prevent mobile related issues before they impact the mobile worker. Also, the fact that many businesses are unaware of the impact that mobile device issues actually have on productivity and worker health suggests that better device monitoring is needed.