The Age of Peak Mobility – Productivity of Mobile Workers

This post is based on “The Age of Peak Mobility” report by Totalmobile with the support of Surrey’s Centre for the Digital Economy (CoDE).

Workforce productivity is very crucial for the economic growth and prosperity of any nation. UK’s productivity experienced a sharp decline during the 2008 global financial crisis and has never recovered. Despite continued efforts, it is still 20% below the trend-line before the crisis. Even in today’s age of technology, ‘the productivity puzzle’ isn’t getting solved. Why?


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Technology plays a huge role in our lives now. It has been at the centre of transforming society, making our lives more connected and easier. Technology allows us to free up time by automating or digitising our tasks, so we can spend time where it matters more. Unfortunately, very little of these technology advancements are making their way to work. A survey by Totalmobile found that mobile workers spend as much as 70% of their time on administrative activities which are only supplementary to their job.

These are staggering figures! Only about 30% of time is spent being productive, working directly on a client’s work. How can mobile workers reach their peak productivity, or ‘peak mobility’?

“The thing to consider here is, of course, variety. The greater the variety of work the mobile worker is doing, the less efficient they are because there is a diagnosis or setup task…”

Professor Roger Maull

A mobile worker’s primary job activity is service delivery at different locations – hence the name ‘mobile worker’. These mobile workers are hired for their skills in the specific job, and not for their skills in supplementary activities. But, they are still spending most of their time on admin, travelling, meetings or training.

With these stats, it’s not surprising that most businesses feel their mobile workers find it difficult to complete their assigned work. More surprisingly, they also believe their employees ‘waste time’ doing admin work. Is it really the fault of the employees, or is it failure to deploy technology correctly?

Over a third of organisations are focused on seeing more clients every day and reducing service wait times. This pressure on employees to get jobs done quicker could be backfiring. Multiple visits don’t necessarily translate into better service quality and rushed work means underlying issues being ignored with customer’s problems persisting again soon. The next visit would require diagnostics to be run again, eating up time that could have been avoided if the work was properly completed earlier. Although one would think businesses know the importance of quality over quantity, the focus of managers is on the contrary.

“There’s a big difference between stable and unstable environments, where one is optimised towards regularity, and the other to flexibility. The approach to management is entirely different for each category. Think about the vast difference in examples such as parcel delivery, emergency plumbers, police forces and home help.”

Professor Alan Brown

This problem partly persists due to the poor implementation of technology. Less than half of organisations with mobile workers make use of workforce management tools, implying mobile workers just aren’t equipped with the right tools to help boost their productivity. Even in today’s age of consumer apps like Google Maps, and the rise of AI, they aren’t making their way into the work world.

Attempts to get more productivity out of already stretched workers will not yield results, but rather efficiency needs to be improved by identifying the obstacles to productivity and removing them. Even with today’s technological developments which are driving the digital economy, UK’s ‘productivity puzzle’ is yet to be solved.

Muhammad Ali