Study explores tech impact on professional and personal lives of employees
Being in office doesn’t improve communications, distractions abound
THE perception of how productive those who work from home are beginning to shift, even as more employees begin to use multiple devices to get their job done and the desktop still playing a key role, according to a new study by Dell Inc and Intel Corp.
The two companies recently unveiled findings from their second Global Evolving Workforce Study, which identifies and explores current and future trends pertaining to the workplace and workforce, and the role that technology has played in their evolution, they said in a statement.
Dell and Intel commissioned TNS to conduct the study with 4,764 full-time employees of small, medium and large-sized organisations across 12 countries (Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States) and six private industries (financial services, manufacturing, retail, media and entertainment, healthcare, and education) and three public industries (government, healthcare and education).
The quantitative survey was conducted between July 11, 2014 and Sept 5, 2014. Dell also interviewed industry experts and analysts in human resources, technology, and organisation psychologists for their insight on the findings.
“… It’s critical to keep a pulse on the changing landscape so we can continue to provide the right solutions and services for the evolving workforce,” said Steve Lalla, vice president and general manager of Cloud Client Computing, Dell.
“And as the research shows, now more than ever, the ‘office’ isn’t defined by a desk within an employer’s walls.
“With constant connectivity blurring the lines between professional and personal lives and devices, it’s essential employees have seamless access to data when at the office, at home and on the road so they can stay productive, and IT secures and manages the data and user wherever it goes,” he added.
Key trends that emerged from the research centered on where and how employees work, the impact technology has on personal and work lives, and predictions around the automation of technology in the future.
1) One size doesn’t fit all
Wherever and whenever they are working, employees are using multiple devices, rather than just one to get their jobs done.
Of those who use desktops, more than half also use another device, and those who use either a tablet or 2-in-1 laptop for work only use these in conjunction with other devices. However, tablet and 2-in-1 adoption is growing, with the highest use among executives and in emerging markets.
Performance is the top priority for what employees want in their work device with 81% stating it as either the first or second most important attribute.
Location of work also has an impact on the devices used; 62% of employees consider the desktop PC as their primary business device while at work, with the highest use in financial services, public healthcare and government, but when doing work at home, laptops are used as frequently as desktops.
For personal purposes, employees are switching to more mobile forms of technology where laptop, tablet and 2-in-1 usage is higher than when working in the office.
2) The office is king, but it’s a jungle too
As employees conduct work in different locations, the office still is the primary place of work. Ninety-seven percent of employees spend at least some time in their employer’s office.
On average, employees in developed markets are spending 32 hours per week in the office, compared to 26 hours for employees in emerging markets. Thirty-five percent of employees globally indicate they work in public places on average two hours per week.
Employees average four hours per week working at an external location, such as a client’s office, and another five hours per week working from home, compared with 29 hours per week working in the office.
Distractions in the office, however, are a concern. Office-based employees feel they work best in an office at their desk (76%), yet 48% indicate they are frequently interrupted. Almost one in five employees wear headphones or earbuds in the office, and that usage doubles for those who feel they are frequently interrupted.
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The office doesn’t seem to aid in increasing interpersonal communications either, as 51% of employees still frequently IM or email colleagues who are located physically near them, rather than talking with them directly.
3) The productivity debate: Office workers vs. remote workers
Perceptions of at-home workers are shifting as 52% of employees surveyed believe that those working from home are just as productive or more productive than those in the office.
However, this perception has not shifted everywhere as four out of 10 employees in China, India, Turkey and UAE believe those working from home are less productive, and 29% of those in developed countries aren’t sure what to think.
Of those who spend any time working from home, half believe they are more productive there than in the office. Of the remaining 50%, 36% believe they are equally as productive at home as in the office, and only 14% say less productive.
There are clear benefits of working from home: 30% sleep more, 40% drive less and 46% of employees feel less stress, but not everything about working from home is good. There are distractions from spouses, children, parents and pets in the home and 20% of employees indicate exercising less when working from home, with 38% indicate snacking more.
4) Work life + personal life = Life
As innovations in technology continue to advance, people have increasing flexibility to choose when and where they meet their professional obligations. Sixty-four percent of employees globally conduct at least some business at home after business hours.
Employees in emerging countries are increasingly expected to be accessible at home, with 83% indicating they check work email after hours, compared with 42% in developed markets.
Executives blur the lines between ‘work’ and ‘personal’ more than other employees. They indicate they use personal technology for work more frequently than other employees (64% vs 37%), take work technology home for personal purposes (45% vs 20%) and access personal websites/ apps/ software at work (67% vs 49%).
More than half of employees globally currently use personal devices for work purposes or expect to do so in the future, while 43% of employees globally are secretly using personal devices for work without the company knowing, with smartphones and laptops being those most frequently used.
“The challenge many IT departments face is how to manage and secure the increasing number of devices coming in and out of an organisation,” said Bob O’Donnell, founder and chief analyst TECHnalysis Research.
“Smartphones, in particular, have been the primary device behind the BYOD (bring your own device) model. That's forcing many organisations to rethink the way they manage devices, especially ones not purchased or completely accessible by IT,” he said.
5) The secret to happy employees? Technology
One out of four employees globally report they are influenced by the technology provided to them at work and would consider taking a new position if provided better technology that helps them be more productive.
Employees in the media and entertainment sector are most likely to quit over poor technology. Those in management roles and employees in emerging markets, in particular, expect the best technology in order to stay with their current employer or consider a new one.
Seventy-six percent of employees said technology has had an influence on the way they work in the past year. Forty-six percent said technology has increased their productivity and enabled them to communicate faster.
But some feel the technology they have available holds them back from being productive and has hindered their career growth, with that feeling most pronounced in India.
Fewer than half of employees globally report that the IT department takes employees opinions into consideration when selecting technology but those in emerging markets feel they have more influence over the choices that IT makes.
6) The future of tech in the workplace is bright, but not fully automated
Employees are generally optimistic with the future of technology, believing it will keep evolving and will provide different benefits and capabilities to the workforce, but will not fundamentally change the way in which people work.
They believe that in the future, voice recognition will be used instead of the keyboard (92%), tablets will completely replace laptops (87%), all computers will use hand gestures (87%), and keyboards and mice will be obsolete (88%).
But those advancements in technology won’t replace the need for humans in the workplace as only 34% of respondents think their job will be fully automated in their lifetime. Those in emerging countries, specifically UAE, India, and Turkey are more willing to rely on technology, while those in the United Kingdom, United States and Japan are looking for a more human touch in their work lives.
With the workplace changing, job responsibilities are being met at home, at client locations, even in public spaces like coffee shops and public transportation, so mobility has become a priority.
Amid the flux, mobile technologies and alternative interfaces are playing an increasing role – laptops, tablets, mobile phones, 2-in-1s, thin clients and desktop virtualisation introduce unprecedented versatility into the IT toolkit, Dell and Intel said.
What organisations need to do
Business leaders, IT managers and human resource professionals should focus on the following to better understand their employees’ diverse needs and provide the right environments and technology to enable them to do their best work, Dell and Intel said:
Activity-based work: Provide the right technology for the job, which may mean multiple devices.
Seamless access: Provide employees with seamless access to their data and applications from any device, anywhere, at any time.
Security: Ensure not only all BYOD devices are known and secured but the user and access to information is managed and secured.
Diverse environments: As innovations in technology continue to advance, people have increasing flexibility to choose when and where they meet their professional obligations so employers need to provide the tools to enable them to be effective in their preferred environment. For those who don’t have the flexibility, provide a variety of workspaces to meet the task at hand.
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