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Half the employees at small and midsize businesses are estimated to be working outside the office, and a quarter of SMBs’ staff works outside the firm at any given time, at any given time, according to a new study, entitled "State-of-the-Market 2011 Report: Mobility Trends in SMBs."

The report, released by business communications specialist Fonality and conducted by Webtorials, showed the increased use of tablet computers, which the company predicted would become the standard mobile device within 18 months. In addition, due to increasing mobile dependence, 43 percent of SMBs plan to deploy cloud-based or hosted mobile solutions to improve delivery to employees, according to the study, which is based on a survey of companies with 10 to 250 employees.

“SMBs are relying on mobile tools to better serve customers and reduce capex,” said Joanie Wexler, an independent networking analyst and editor in Silicon Valley. “However, employees are struggling with inconsistent access experiences when inside and outside the office, which can be a productivity-buster. Companies with highly mobile-centric employees that invest in solutions enabling consistent access can recoup a lot of worker time, and this study shows that cloud/hosted services are emerging as a primary way of achieving those goals.”

The biggest reason SMBs implement mobility is to enable their employees to work wherever the job demands, according to 75 percent of respondents. Increasingly, that means those workers that are in the field. Half the workers at the respondents’ companies are mobile at least some of the time, and those employees work outside their employers office areas for nearly half their workdays. That means a typical SMB has a full one-quarter of their staff working outside the office at any given time, the report said.

The report showed that real-time presence as well as corporate directory and calendar access are favored. Unified Communications (UC) capabilities and contact center functionality, including customer escalation, skills-based routing and queue management are an increasingly high priority. In addition, the survey found WiFi connectivity is a preferred method to preserve mobile-plan minutes.

The study states that mobile workers who spend hours of their day in the field experience difficulty accessing critical business applications which, in turn, hampers productivity. This productivity loss is up to six hours per week of wasted time per SMB employee. By providing the same business communications experience inside and outside the office, an average firm consisting of 137 employees with 67 mobile workers can recoup up to $700,000 annually in measurable staff productivity gains, or more than $10,000 per mobile employee.

To read the original eWeek article, click here: Cloud-Based Application Demand Rising Among SMBs: Report