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The Exponential Growth of Mobile and Remote Working

It's inevitable, the Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO) and Chief Information Officer (CIO) must now work together more closely to deliver the progressive employment policies, flexible business processes, and adaptable IT platforms that enable the work-from-anywhere economy.

The American mobile worker population will grow over the next four years, increasing from 78.5 million in 2020 to 93.5 million mobile workers in 2024, according to the latest market study by International Data Corporation (IDC).

By the end of the forecast period, IDC expects mobile workers will account for nearly 60 percent of the total U.S. workforce.

"COVID-19's disruption of the U.S. labor force has had a dramatic impact on how large businesses operate and will continue to shape how and where people work in the months to come," said Bryan Bassett, senior research analyst at IDC.

Mobile Worker Market Development

The ability to quickly mobilize different segments of a company's workforce with capable and secure mobile solutions has never been more important, and U.S. organizations are signaling that investment in mobile-based management and security solutions will take precedence in 2020 and beyond.

IDC defines mobile workers as workers who are enabled with mobile devices (e.g. smartphones or tablets) by their company to complete their assigned tasks and workflows. The mobile worker population is segmented into two core categories: information mobile workers and frontline mobile workers.

  • Information Mobile Worker: A knowledge or office worker who typically works from a single location, has dedicated computing resources, and tends to create, transform, and distribute data and/or content using productivity and enterprise applications. Examples include programmers, business analysts, marketing specialists, researchers, billing clerks, lawyers, accountants. This category of mobile worker includes those who may also be physically mobile during their workday, including mobile professionals, occasionally mobile workers, and mobile non-travelers.
  • Frontline Mobile Worker: A worker who performs client-facing or operational activities on-site or in the field that requires distributed mobile access to data, content, applications, and workflows. Examples include store associate, nurse, lab technician, construction worker, field service worker, and hospitality worker. The two primary types of mobile frontline workers are mobile field workers and mobile on-location workers.

Frontline workers currently make up the majority of workers in the United States, accounting for 57 percent of the total U.S. worker population. However, in 2020, only 49 percent of frontline workers are currently enabled with mobile devices, compared with 55 percent of information workers.

And the number of frontline workers in the U.S. will see little growth over the next several years as the industries that rely most on these workers -- accommodation and food service, government, retail, healthcare, and construction -- recover from the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, the number of information workers is expected to see accelerated growth over the next 12-18 months, largely because this segment has been much less susceptible to the immediate effects of the pandemic.

The number of information mobile workers will also grow due to an expansion in remote and work-from-home (WFH) workers in the wake of COVID-19. IDC defines this sub-category as workers who are typically an information worker and works at a home office during normal business hours.

The threshold for remote and work-from-home workers is three or more days per week, although some remote workers may spend no time in traditional offices -- in effect, they are working from home full time.

According to the IDC assessment, the remote and work-from-home sub-category is crucial because working from home will be much more prevalent in the future.

Outlook for Mobile and Remote Networking Growth 

A recent IDC survey found that 87 percent of U.S. enterprises expect their employees to continue working from home three or more days per week once mandatory closures are lifted, and 90 percent of enterprises think it is likely more of their workers will work from home in the future.

"To meet the needs of more mobile, remote, and work-from-home workers, U.S. enterprises have indicated that mobile security and mobile management solutions will be top spending priorities going forward to keep both information and frontline workers productive and secure in decentralized working environments," added Bassett.

I believe the typical approach to securing remote network access via VPNs is now inadequate. Network performance, manageability and security are of paramount importance. Therefore, sub-optimal wide-area networking solutions will be superseded by new technology. SD-WAN and Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) solutions will deliver superior Distributed Workforce Apps to more mobile and remote employees.

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