Mitigate Workplace Hazards with Contextual Mobility

By: Joe Boyle, Contributor

As business has become increasingly mobile, employers have needed new ways to manage employees’ device usage to ensure safe and appropriate use. This is especially true for companies whose workers are field-based, meaning they don’t report to an office each day. Rather, they’re on the move, such as in transportation and delivery, utilities or pest control. For a delivery driver, going to work could look like picking up packages in a warehouse and then being behind the wheel making drop-offs. For a cable technician, it could be working outdoors installing a service line and then inside a customer’s home completing the installation.

Not reporting to an office or sitting at a desk doesn’t mean these workers aren’t technologically connected throughout each shift. It simply means they’re utilizing smartphones and tablets, putting the power of the computer into the palm of their hands in a remote setting.

The rise in advanced mobility has ushered in the need for dynamic mobility management solutions. Such strategies can address the fact that what may be considered safe in one situation may not be in another. Yet, common mobile device management solutions today are optimized to solve for the security of the network and data, but not for the productivity, safety and security of the employees using the tools. Because of this, mobile devices are often locked or heavily limited in functionality for workers, as companies believe that’s the only way to safeguard what’s important to them.

Enforcing appropriate use per a company’s mobile device policy, while also allowing the features and functionality that enable employees to be productive and flexible, can be a tricky balancing act. So how can environmental health & safety (EHS) professionals allow for the mobile technologies that help their workers do their jobs—while also managing the potential risks they pose if not used appropriately? The answer: Through context.

Accounting for the Human Aspect of Workforce Mobility

Today’s EHS leaders must build mobile device policies with the understanding that workers are not static. (photo courtesy Adobe Stock)

One of the ways EHS managers can effectively ensure employees adhere to appropriate use guidelines is by taking context into account. Factors such as time of day, proximity to heavy equipment, workgroup and location should impact what kind of features and functionalities are enabled on a mobile device at a given time. When an employee’s context changes, so too should their permissions—automatically and in real-time.

This is referred to as the human aspect of mobility—guided by the fact that employees are not static. They move throughout a shift as the task at hand changes. By taking their context into account and dynamically managing their mobile device permissions (again, automatically and in real-time), employers can ensure workers have access to only what they need for a job and never what they don’t need. This seamless ability to adjust permissions without intervention by IT staff has proven to be incredibly powerful for companies who rely on mobile devices.

For example, if an employee is at a high-risk job location, such as an active construction site, a contextual mobility management solution would ensure only the apps needed for the job are available in the right situation. Personal or non-relevant work apps would be kept in the background, while the employee is operating or near heavy equipment or directing traffic alongside the work site, for example.

The task at hand could be completed more efficiently through the use of mobile technology without introducing incremental risk to the safety of the worker. Once away from the job site, the technology would acknowledge the user’s environment has changed and it’s safe for additional features to be turned back on. The device permissions would adjust accordingly in real-time.

Transforming the Way We Work

Mobility will only continue to transform how work gets done—for the better. New apps and processes are being recreated with workforce mobile usage specifically in mind. Because of this, research firm IDC has indicated that U.S. companies have signaled their prioritization of investments in mobile-based management and security solutions. The group also estimates the mobile worker population will grow from 78.5 million in 2020 to 93.5 million in 2024. With this, the focus becomes on how businesses can best enable this group to do their jobs at peak productivity, efficiency and safety.

Today’s EHS leaders must build mobile device policies with the understanding that workers are not static. Device permissions must also be fluid and shift as each employee’s movements change. It is only then that truly advanced workforce mobility comes to life.

Joe Boyle is CEO of TRUCE Software, the first platform to offer a contextually-aware and responsive mobile management solution for businesses.

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