Until relatively recently, the answer to this question would almost certainly have been “No”. At the very least, a computer or paper based filing system would have been necessary to store accounts in order to keep the tax authorities happy. Then there are all the other aspects of running a business like preparing documents and making payments. With the rapid development of mobile technology over the past decade, software has become available that brings running a business using only a mobile phone within reach for a surprising number of people.
An app for every purpose
There are mobile apps that allow you to create media-rich presentations, write business letters and send invoices and payments. The development of ever faster mobile internet connections also makes it possible to use services like Google Docs, where the software is stored in the cloud and people can gain access using their smartphones or computers. These services allow multiple people to remotely edit the same document, making teamwork easy over long distances.
There are also apps for mobile banking and popular payment systems like PayPal that allow people to send secure payments using military grade encryption. This gets around the security concerns that would have prevented many from sending payments using their mobile devices in the past.
One of the most popular work-related apps for mobile devices is Microsoft Office. This gives the lie to the idea that office suites are only ever going to be of use on desktop or laptop computers. With today’s tablets and larger-screened smartphones, typing up a document is a relatively simple task that can be accomplished in the passenger seat of a car or on a train.
Accounting software like Quickbooks is also increasingly popular on mobile devices. Mobile accounting makes it easy to input transactions as they occur, rather than leaving updating your accounts to the end of the month or rushing around trying to find old invoices at the end of the tax year.
With access to a Wi-Fi connection, it is even practical to use video messaging services like Skype to have team meetings between people who are in all sorts of weird and wonderful locations. Remote, flexible working doesn’t necessarily lead to complete loss of face to face contact with work colleagues.
Mobile working is already here
The rapidly increasing capabilities of mobile devices have brought more and more people into the sphere of mobile working. It is estimated that 1.3 billion people work using mobile devices in 2015. While few, if any, of these people will be running an entire business using mobile devices, the colossal number who are mobile workers is a testament to the benefits of smartphones and tablets in a work environment.
Surveys suggest that three out of five workers now say that they don’t need to be in the office anymore to be productive. Even further, 54% of workers say that they feel more productive outside of the office.
For people who are used to working nine to five in front of a computer in a traditional office environment, these might be surprising statistics. However, when you think about the potential for mobile devices to bring productive work to periods of time that would have previously been spent doing very little, you can see how they can improve a worker’s productivity.
Mobile devices also help to facilitate flexible work schedules and home working. These can help workers to maximise the potential of their time at work, as well as potentially helping to achieve a better work-life balance. From the business’s point of view, more flexible working can allow offices to be downsized, helping to cut the company’s overheads.
There is also some evidence that mobile working is contributing to the growth of companies who use it. Studies have found that businesses with a mobile workforce have experienced in the region of 10% revenue growth over the past year.
Every silver lining has a cloud
With 93% of UK adults now in possession of a mobile phone and 61% now using it to access the internet, the potential to expand the use of mobile devices at work is vast. However, with this potential comes a certain amount of risk.
A lot of businesses have failed to keep pace with the mobile revolution that has swept the country over the last 20 years. This has led to workers often being dissatisfied with the mobile phones that they are issued with at work and choosing instead to use their own smartphones or tablets. While this may have benefits for both the workers and their business in terms of their capabilities, it has the potential to play havoc for a company’s IT department.
The security systems that have been put in place to protect customer data can be rendered entirely superfluous by workers bringing in their own devices. This is a key reason that companies should take a keen interest in mobile working and attempt to facilitate it for their workers. The alternatives are to have unacceptably compromised data or stamp down on workers’ ability to innovate by using up to date mobile devices.
There are also risks for workers from mobile working. Being able to work from home will usually improve an individual’s productivity. However, it might also erode the barrier between work and leisure time, which can lead in some cases to extreme overworking. Workers can also become divorced from the culture of the company that employs them once they are mainly working outside of the office. Given that mobile working is almost certainly here to stay, these are problems that people will need to learn to manage.
So, can a company be run entirely using mobile devices? The answer for a surprising number of businesses is probably “Yes”. Moving to a completely mobile model at present is a decision that not many are likely to take. However, for almost all of us, the direction of travel is pretty clear. There will be ever more mobile working as the years pass and successful businesses are going to have to find ways to keep up.
Tools to help work on your mobile
Here are some of the most relevant and popular work apps for Android, iOS, Windows Mobile, Blackberry:
- Microsoft Office for Tablets (Free)
- Google Docs, Sheets and Slides(Free)
- Google Drive (Free)
- Microsoft Remote Desktop (Free)
- OneNote (Free)
- QuickBooks for Android (Free with a Quickbooks desktop subscription, starting at $12.95),
- Square Register (Free)
- Expense Manager (Free)
- Skype (Free)
- Google Calendar (Free)
- MailChimp (Free)
- Adobe Reader (Free, Upgrade for £6.99)
- PayPal Here (Free)
- CloudMagic (Free)
- Splashtop Business (Requires £35 yearly subscription)
- CamCard (Free or £0.69 without ads)
- Onavo Protect (Free),
- LinkedIn (Free)
- Facebook Pages Manager (Free)
- Percentage Calculator (Free)
- Evernote (Free, upgrade for $5)
- SkyDrive (Free)
- My Trips ($2.99)
- Skype (Free)
- Todo (free)
- Box (free)
- Adobe Photoshop Express (free)
- OneNote (free)
- Dropbox (free)
- Google Analytics for Windows (free)
- MyAccountant ($2)
- AccuWeather (Free)
- PlayCloud 10 ($1.99)
- Conqu (Free)
- Hub++ ($2.99)
- Gadget Box ($1.99)
- Luko LAN Remote ($2.99)
- Groovy Notes ($4.99)
- WorkWide (£2.50)
- Documents To Go (free)
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