Work and Life in the Mobile Society/Business Impact/Relationships

How have working relationships changed with the rise in mobility?

Becoming more and more dependent on IT and electronic communications, and driven by the benefit of saving office and travel costs, many companies have closed their offices and told their employees to be mobile workers. For these mobile workers, work is no longer just somewhere to go to, but something they do, wherever they are. This also raises a new managerial issue regarding how working relationships have changed with the increase in worker mobility.



Firstly let us look at the definition of working relationship. Working relationship is defined as "an interpersonal relationship that is task-based, non-trivial, and of continuing duration" (Gabarro, 1990, p. 81). This means that working relationship is interpersonal relationships, in that they are based upon the shared goal of task achievement.

Relations with Management


One major issue with respect to the working relationship in mobile workplace is managers who work with mobile workers must be results-oriented rather than process-driven. That is, they need to be comfortable seeing only what mobile workers get done and not what they're doing moment to moment. Another issue related to the working relationship in mobile workplace is mobile staff must form supportive relationships promptly. For example, mobile Working groups were more often made up of digital employees from all around the country, some times from all over the world, who never meet each other before. To work effectively, they must work in the bases of mutual support first, without any delay. Meanwhile they can develop relationship of affiliation and intimacy along with working.

Worker Identification


Other issues such as mobile workers feel a weakened sense of identification with their organizations all arise from the special feature of the mobile working. The feature of mobile workers is they work at anywhere any time. This means that managers can’t monitor employees’ work before their eyes. This may cause managerial problems such as loss management, over-management, and lack of support to workers

This feature also can cause problems between co-workers, because getting to know, trust, and become comfortable with one’s project team members may take time. This can reduce the productivity and efficiency. Particularly troubling is the loss of informal and spontaneous work-related discussion. Brainstorming and unplanned interactions with coworkers can no longer be taken for granted.

Eliminating Drawbacks


To strengthen the advantages and eliminate the drawbacks, managers must support the mobile workers mentally and technically without cramping their freedom and creativity. Managers may have to give up some controls but offer high level of trust, respect; Besides, they must pay close attention to communication styles and content; be able to empathize with workers whom they don’t see often in order to know when someone is under stress or is feeling isolated from the team; Furthermore, they must provide the up-date information about the organization to mobile workers in order to develop and maintain employees’ sense of organizational belonging and commitment.

To maximize the mobile working benefit, mobile workers must take more initiatives to maintain, nurture and enhance their relationship with one anther. Colleagues should develop the ability to establish mutual trust and respect; they should create the opportunity to engage in regular social interactions with their coworkers; they must be willing to be influenced, share important information, fulfill promises, and listen.

In addition to the above measures, mobile workers also should: 1) Be proactive in maintaining contact with their organizations. 2) Schedule informal lunches and formal meeting to increase face to face contacts. 3) Don’t restrict formal topics. Include some informal things such as family and kids in your talk. 4) Share photos, IT tips, jokes with others just like in the office.



As the research firm IDC claims, the number of mobile workers is increasing faster than stationary workers and mobile workers are more productive. However, companies, managers, mobile workers need to pay special attention to managing the working relationship properly, in order to realize the benefits. Besides, research also shows that the personal face to face contact is critical in mobility. Like a mobile worker said, “No matter how much technology is available, we are people. We are not robots and we are not computer databanks.