Survey: Half of U.S. workers face one or more serious mobile issues monthly

The survey showed a gap between the MDM and EMM tools and IT's ability to monitor mobile issues that could affect worker productivity.

A new survey of hundreds of U.S. companies shows that 51% of workers experienced at least one mobile device issue a month that hindered their ability to do their job – and the number of such problems is increasing.

The second annual State of Enterprise Mobility Survey found that mobile device failures can have financial impacts on companies, including lost productivity and workers calling in sick because of job stress – particularly for companies that use thousands of mobile devices in the field.

More than one-third (37%) of those surveyed experienced an increase in mobile device issues during the past 12 to 18 months; the most common failures involved unreliable network connections (45%); battery failure (41%); and apps that crash or become unstable (40%).

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The online survey was conducted by a market research company VDC Research for mobile monitoring service B2M. It includes results from 550 companies, each of which had to manage a minimum of 500 mobile devices, with the average number of devices managed being 3,880. Included in the survey were companies in vertical industries such as government, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, telecommunications, technology and engineering.

Jack Gold, principal analyst with J. Gold Associates, agreed with some of the survey's findings, saying that, while rare, a lack of network connectivity (both cellular and Wi-Fi) not only makes it harder to get work done productively, but "the annoyance factor is huge."

Another aggravation: Poor battery life on older devices. The average battery is good for 200 to 300 discharge/recharge cycles before it becomes severely degraded, according to Gold. So older devices – even some that are only a year old but face high-use conditions – can easily need a recharge before users get a full day's work done. "And that's annoying too," Gold said.

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Adding to the mobile problems – perhaps unexpectedly: business apps are generally not built as well as consumer apps because developers tend to spend more time on improving the user experience, according to Gold. Typically, the user experience with applications is either that they work great or barely function.

"Annoying users is a sure way to get people to complain, and there is nothing more annoying than getting in my way of being productive," Gold said, even as he urged caution in reading the survey results. "Having said all that, I find many of these surveys questionable."

According to Gold, without knowing more about the user base, it's hard to evaluate the results compared to the larger mobile user community.

According to the B2M survey, employees feel anxious or stressed (69%) when mobile device failures prevent them from doing their jobs, an increase from 39% of workers who said that in last year's survey. Thirty-seven percent of respondents have taken at least one day off in the last 12 months due to the stress of not being able to do their work because of mobility issues, more than double the number who said that in last year's survey (16%).

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Mobility issues are also hurting enterprises when it comes to productivity, with 95% of all workers affected by mobile issues saying it has negatively affected productivity.

This year, the annual survey included IT workers in charge of enterprise mobility in an effort to get their perspective on how they manage mobility, the outages they experience, and how to make things better for both admins and users.

While 96% of the IT workers surveyed indicated they have mobile device management or enterprise mobility management tools in place, only 2% said they get all the analytics they need to manage mobile devices.

"Mobility is a business-critical asset across most enterprises today, yet this research clearly highlights that mobile device failures are high in volume; negatively impacting productivity, staff morale and costing businesses revenue," said Gary Lee, Chief Revenue Officer of B2M Solutions. "The research also reveals is a clear gap between the issues impacting frontline workers and visibility of these among the IT department."

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