Mobile Productivity: The Double-Edged Sword
You would be hard-pressed in today’s hyper-connected world to find an employee without a smartphone or tablet of some type, whether that be an Apple device, BlackBerry, Samsung, or another of the brands constantly fighting it out for top spot in the market.
Most users of smartphones carry them wherever they go and use them as a “third hand”, “Googling” information whenever needed and using apps almost as second nature throughout the day. This constant stream of data usage has led to the rise of new technologies such as BYOD and EMM, and companies having to tailor their working environments and processes to cater for the related security risks and legalities which have followed, but how does mobile and smartphone usage actually impact on employee productivity?
In a recent report conducted by BlackBerry in Canada, nearly 50% of BlackBerry users stated that, by using mobile technology, their availability to others was improved. 56% also identified that one of their biggest productivity priorities was managing daily communications via their device, especially with co-workers. However, security was also referenced as a big concern: 67% classed this as a priority, especially when using their device for work. The conclusion is that mobile users are more aware than ever of the benefit of using mobile devices for work, which leads to enhanced productivity, but it can be a double-edged sword at times!
Freedom & Connectivity
Since the early 1990s and the spread of the World Wide Web, users have been able to connect via electronic means: email, messenger services, social networks and VoIP calling are all commonplace these days and adding mobile usage just enhances the mix – especially with the rise of apps for popular services such as Skype, Facebook Messenger, Microsoft Office Mobile, Mail, Cloud and many more.
Enhanced means of connecting with others gives rise to more freedom for staff across different areas. As an example, those whose jobs are on the road now have a wider range of services to connect with staff back at the office, especially via services such as Cloud sharing, where they can fill in paperwork electronically and upload it for others to see on a shared folder without having to email or call in while travelling. Those who would traditionally be “desk-bound” and unable to work from other locations can now expand their hours and work from areas such as home, giving more freedom for flexible working hours and working parents during times when childcare is unavailable, in turn enhancing productivity to employers who otherwise may have had to reschedule deadlines.
Recruitment agencies can now use a wider spread of avenues to search for and research potential employees, from a wider range of locations. These are just 3 examples of how the spread of connectivity has impacted how people work, but there are many more.
Focus & Creativity
Working on a project in the day and thinking about it after the working day is over is common for many people, and with the use of shared folders and Cloud access, many can now continue to add their ideas and thoughts after hours. Clock-off time in many cases now merely means the drive from work to home, but not a total stop in the work process, and many continue to use their mobile devices for work purposes into the evening, adding and enhancing to documents and projects created earlier in the day.
This streamlined focus allows users to work from home and feel less frustrated when deadlines become tight, as they know that, if needed, they have more time in which to get the work done, from different locations.
Security & Balance – The Double-Edged Sword
With the rise in productivity, work performed out of hours and flexible working hours, there are bound to be downfalls – employers and employees both benefit from continued improvements in technology but there is always a cost. Security is a big concern and it is important that employers take appropriate precautions to ensure that those connecting to company drives and documents on smart devices are not able to introduce viruses to the system, or accidentally put data at risk through device loss or theft. Sharing will also always be a concern for IT departments, leading to enhanced password and encryption systems, especially with the rise of public WiFi usage in areas such as hotels and restaurants. Business data and emails are often accessed by users on holiday or on business trips and security issues must be addressed by companies to ensure that sensitive data is not hacked or leaked. Employers may find they have to pay more for security, including increased IT work forces, enhanced safety precautions and larger data storage facilities, to ensure nothing is written over or deleted to make space.
From a personal perspective, it is also important that those using smart devices for work purposes retain an appropriate work-life balance – many struggle to “turn off” once they have left work, and this can lead to increased stresses and strains outside of the office. Recent BYOD legislation in the US and Europe has been formed to counter this, with large organisations including BMW and Volkswagen taking steps to limit the amount of out of hours communications unless necessary.
Finally, it is important not to overlook the cost element. Rising use of mobile devices to access corporate data on the move inevitably leads to an increase in the amount of data travelling over mobile networks, particularly with the growing use of video in the corporate workspace. It is essential companies monitor their telecom usage through effective use of tools such Telecom Expense Management (TEM), to ensure they and their employees are on the correct rate plans – particularly if roaming overseas – and the benefits of improved productivity are not promptly outweighed by an equivalent (if not greater) increase in telecom spend.
To conclude, the rise of BYOD for the workplace has many advantages for both employers and employees, but precautions must be taken to keep in line with not only current legislation but also security risks and staff needs.
Thanks to Anne Britton for the post !