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Planet Ark achieves staff and operations “mobility”

August 4, 2014

planet-ark-image-200x236The Australian cartridge collector worked to make itself a more mobile company.

ZDNet reported on the “mobility transformation” undertaken by the Australian not-for-profit organisation Planet Ark, which collects used printer cartridges as well as other consumer electronics for recycling and reuse. The company “grappled with a location challenge” for a number of years, with “separate offices” dividing staff and “inhibit[ing] work processes”.

The mobility “transformation” aimed to give the 20 full-time staff at the company freedom from “physical office locations”, as well as improve “engagement and retention”. The company had previously operated from two offices in Sydney city centre and the Blue Mountains, with the mobility plan helping to “enable staff to access and share information from virtually anywhere”.

Planet Ark noted that “providing staff with a way to work the way they prefer builds engagement” as well as helping combat “limited upward career progression”, which the news site noted is “one of the drawbacks of working in small businesses”. The company utilised data management and sharing software, including Filemaker, TeamViewer, Confluence, Xero and Google Docs, and also added increased virtual private networks (VPN) and voice over internet protocol (VoIP) technology.

Ian Bridges, CIO at Planet Ark, commented that using the software was “only half of the battle”, as you have to “find and fit tools to the way people think and work in order to get by”, with workers needing to be provided with the “means to work smarter […] when it works well, the experience is empowering”.

Whilst the mobility deployment took some time due to connection availability and training, Bridges stated that this paid off as “we have also been able to distribute the team among several locations – Melbourne, Sydney, Blue Mountains, and keep everyone connected”, which is “lowering office infrastructure costs through hosted services and sharing office spaces”

He added that this option is not always available for every small business, as “to make it work you have to find the right balance, and evaluate the needs of the team. Not every position can be mobile. Not every person is suited to it either. It works better when there are a number of team members who interact regularly, and with ad hoc teams that need to meet around the demands of the ‘usual’ business”.

His tips for other companies include “having the trust of managers in the process”, and not allowing mobility to become “socially isolating”, with staff regularly meeting to form teams “around specific projects”; and notes that companies should “make sure your infrastructure will work and everyone can do what they need with it. Understand what your staff need and how they work best”.

Bridges added: “Be prepared to experiment to find the best mix. Not everything you try will work, so be prepared to cut your losses for some things. Believe in your people and involve them in the process, they are your best asset and the ones who will determine whether it succeeds.”

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