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Mobile workers to form 60% of total US workforce by 2024

IDC offers more evidence of how Covid-19 has changed the face of work in the US, with CIO investment in mobile-based management and security systems to take precedence in 2020 and beyond

Noting the dramatic impact that Covid-19 has had on how large businesses operate and that it will continue to shape how and where people work, IDC has released research data predicting that the US mobile worker population will grow steadily over the next four years, increasing from 78.5 million in 2020 to 93.5 million in 2024.

The US Mobile worker population forecast 2020–2024 report, which forecasts the US mobile worker population by segment across 16 industry verticals and analyses trends and drivers in mobility, said that if this growth rate is realised, it means mobile workers will account for nearly 60% of the total US workforce.

The analyst defines mobile workers as those who are equipped by their company with mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, to complete their assigned tasks and workflows. It also segments the mobile worker population into two core categories – information mobile workers and front-line mobile workers.

The former are described as 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 and 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-travellers.

By contrast, a front-line mobile worker is one 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 associates, nurses, lab technicians, construction workers, field service workers and hospitality workers.

According to IDC’s survey, front-line workers currently make up the majority of workers in the US, accounting for 57% of the total worker population. However, it noted that in 2020, only 49% of front-line workers were enabled with mobile devices, compared with 55% of information workers.

The study also predicted that the number of front-line workers in the US will see little growth over the next several years as the industries that rely most on these workers – such as accommodation and food service, government, retail, healthcare and construction – recover from the impact of the pandemic.

By contrast, the number of information workers is expected to see accelerated growth over the next 12-18 months, largely because the segment has been much less susceptible to the immediate effects of the pandemic, said IDC. The number of information mobile workers will also grow because of an expansion in remote and work-from-home workers in the wake of Covid-19.

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The latter sub-category are those who are typically information workers and work at a home office during normal business hours. The threshold for remote and work-from-home workers is regarded by IDC as three or more days a week, although some remote workers may spend no time in traditional offices and are, in effect, working from home full-time.

IDC sees both the remote and work-from-home sub-category as crucial, given that working from home will be much more prevalent in the future. It quoted an earlier survey that found 87% of US enterprises expected their employees to continue working from home three or more days a week once mandatory closures are lifted, and 90% of enterprises thought more of their workers would work from home in the future.

“The ability to quickly mobilise different segments of a company’s workforce with capable and secure mobile solutions has never been more important, and US organisations are signalling that investment in mobile-based management and security solutions will take precedence in 2020 and beyond,” said Bryan Bassett, senior research analyst in IDC’s Enterprise Mobility: Deployment Strategies programme.

“To meet the needs of more mobile, remote and work-from-home workers, US enterprises have indicated that mobile security and mobile management solutions will be top spending priorities going forward to keep both information and front-line workers productive and secure in decentralised working environments.”

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