As a society, the way we view our working life is constantly evolving. The very concept of “leisure” didn’t formally exist until the mid-19th Century, and it wasn’t until the 1970s that the term “work-life balance” was coined to describe the perpetual interplay between an individual’s personal life and their career. But we’ve come a long way since then.
As technology advances, both in the workplace and outside of it, it’s becoming harder to make the distinction between these two spheres. It’s no longer so much a balancing act, as a perfect blend. Rather than being a cause for concern though, this new work/life blend is liberating employees – it’s up to organisations to ensure the workplace is ready to adapt with them.
Internet connectivity has empowered a new generation of more flexible, agile workers who’ve cast off the chains of the office desk. Video conferencing, email, instant chat and file transfers have reduced the time it takes to communicate from minutes, hours, days or even weeks to a matter of seconds. As a result, remote working is now commonplace in many organisations, with some employees only entering into a physical office a couple of times a week – if at all.
The power is in their hands
Thanks to the increased ubiquity of smartphones and mobile devices, the lines between work and life have become increasingly blurred – now more than ever. The emergence of more powerful devices and consumer applications has given rise to a new kind of employee: one that’s always connected and able to navigate effortlessly and efficiently between their commitments in their work and social lives.
At Samsung, we call this new breed of employee the Amplified Individual, and if you let them, they can have a significant positive impact within your organisation. Provide them with the right tools and they’re able to be more productive and more proactive. They no longer consider the workplace to be exclusively for work; 75% of employees say that they carry out personal tasks during office hours. But home is no longer a total retreat from the office either; 75% say they continue to work in their ‘free’ time.
Virtually always in the office
The workplace is no longer a physical building. Though most organisations still have a bricks-and-mortar HQ, for many the new capabilities for remote working and the immense power of mobile devices on the market have rendered the office space essentially redundant. The office is now a frame of mind, an attitude – one that employees can fluidly dip in and out of as they see fit, and it’s maximising the efficiency with which they handle all areas of their lives.
Many organisations are waking up to the realisation that work and life don’t need to be siloed, but unfortunately not everyone has caught up. In an effort to maximise productivity, some organisations still blinker employees from distractions, heavy-handedly blocking websites or applications that might take staff off task. Social media networks, file-sharing sites and chat clients are often on the hit lists for firewalls and over-zealous IT managers.
But when 41% of employees say that mobile business apps are already changing how they work, can organisations afford to be fussy about which tools their people are using during office hours for their work and play? In fact, aside from the usual suspects like Microsoft Office, the top business apps used in the workplace are names you’ll probably recognise: Dropbox, Skype, WhatsApp. It’s worrying then that 38% say that WhatsApp is the most restricted application in their workplace.
The social network: friend or foe?
Social media is a hot topic too. While social networks may strike some as hubs engineered solely for procrastination, it’s not that simple. While LinkedIn has established itself as the professional network of choice, Twitter is also frequently used as a business-networking tool – not just for your company brand, but for your employees’ personal brands too. Not forgetting the strength of these platforms in terms of collaboration – if employees can’t get hold of their colleagues or clients by phone or email then they may well rely on Facebook Messenger.
Dr Dimitrios Tsivrikos, Consumer and Business Psychologist at University College London reassures us that this level of constant multi-tasking is far from a disadvantage: “This isn’t the era of information overload and digital distraction; workers are now developing new techniques and skills to augment their on and offline, personal and professional lives.” It’s worth remembering that your employees are customers too, and they use social networks to consult their peers – seeking tips, reviews and advice on how best they can service their organisations, and their own customers.
Ultimately, resistance is largely futile. If you’re not giving Amplified Individuals the tools they want or enabling them to use their own, then they’ll probably find a workaround. Recent research by Cisco suggests that there may be 15-20 times more unauthorised apps in use in organisations than CIOs think, which poses a potential risk for the security, safety and privacy of your data. And pay attention to which devices your people are using – even if your company supplies work devices and forbids the use of their own, 1 in 12 employees say they’ll use their own device for work anyway, regardless of company policy. It’s vital that organisations keep up with the trends in the consumer market.
It’s important to enable the Amplified Individual, but it’s even more important to provide the same tools to those in your organisation that haven’t yet found them of their own accord – so that they can improve their own efficiencies. There may be employees still actually relying on the archaic CRM solutions or ancient early smartphones you provided them with when they first joined, and that’s no good for anyone.
So what should you do?
· Be open-minded about the sites and applications your workforce choose to use, providing they don’t pose a direct security risk or breach HR rules.
· Have an open and regular dialogue with your staff about the tools they’d like to use for certain tasks, so that you have the visibility to plan appropriately.
· Decide how you’re going to manage the use of devices and create policies accordingly. Choose between: COPE (Corporately Owned, Personally Enabled), BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) or CYOD (Choose Your Own Device).
· Put a strategy in place to manage privacy, security and safety of both company and employee data.
· Consider how you can use smart mobile technology, such as Samsung KNOX, to allow users to switch between password-protected workspace and personal apps securely – all on the same device.
Take the leap
Ultimately, it’s a question of efficiency. The Amplified Individuals within your organisation are already predisposed to finding the most effective applications and methods for working in their personal lives. Enable them to use the same approaches at work and you’ll make them less stressed and more productive – and your business will reap the rewards.
Read our Slideshare as we follow two employees, Justin and Jake, through their working days – and see the difference the right technology can make to your employees’ productivity levels.