Can digital technology enhance our work/life balance?

Striking a good work/life balance and embracing the rapid developments of technology has been a challenge for employees, as well as employers for a number of years now, especially for a business like Amicus ITS where we operate and support clients 24×7.  With the rapid deployment and acceptance in the workplace of mobile devices (BYOD and corporate mobiles + increased procurement of laptops), this has created flexibility options for many workers to answer emails, work on projects or just keep track of workload, out of hours or from offsite.

The question is – does this extra work, or working in a different environment create greater productivity and effectiveness, or is it allowing the individual to be swamped and creating a guilt culture about completing work or a ‘see I’m working now’ badge?

Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote speaking ahead of the ‘Silicon Valley Comes to Oxford 2015’ conference this week, commented:  “The challenge today is that we are a first generation digital society and still figuring out how to make it help us.  We now have mobile devices with email and most people think they should respond to the traffic all the time.  People need to manage their time right and access to work, to be in the right environment to be most productive. The point of the devices is to enable you to choose when you should engage with work. To do this successfully, we need new culture to support this”.

As part of the management team at Amicus ITS and with overall line management responsibility for our HR function, I believe that having the flexibility of a mobile workforce is a valuable tool for business in delivering productivity for the business and flexibility for the workforce.  However, I think we have to acknowledge that there needs to be a mature management culture overseeing this and individual discipline for those involved.  With all the enablement and security activated, it can also ensure that business continuity plans are quicker to exercise.  We have to get smarter about distinguishing work expectations and move away from micro-managing employees to thinking about how we can engage better with staff.  We should provide this balance when staff are out of the office both supporting them to escape and enjoy their downtime, as well as facilitating those who want to utilise some of this time for ‘clearing the decks’ or innovative thinking, by providing them with anywhere access to systems and data.

This is a thought echoed by Head of Envisioning at Microsoft UK, Dave Goplin, whose view is that, “It would be wrong to stifle innovation or good work if it suits the individual”.

The 2009 MacLeod Report for UK Government “Engaging for Success”, showed that disengaged employees cost the UK economy about £60 billion per year.  Technology is moving swiftly, but corporates are still slow to react and missing the boat on engagement.  As Dave Goplin said:  “If we can fix the challenge of engagement and enthuse the workforce by integrating technology with flexibility, employees will increasingly reconsider the importance of their work and the organisation they are working for”. 

At the back of all this, as a Managed Service Provider there is the corporate handle of ‘Shadow IT’.    Full governance, controls and management of what applications are allowed on a device, as well as keeping the data secure at all times has to be in place, before any of this vision can take place.  But it’s a good idea which progressive companies should position themselves to embrace and consider – and could make the difference of being the ‘go-to’ employer of choice in the next decade.

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This week’s technology news by Amicus ITS

Intel expands BYOD program
Intel is expanding its own Bring Your Own Device program, claiming it has been a resounding success and said that over the last year that had gained 5 million hours of additional productivity gains. Intel had 23,500 mobile devices in total in the program, an increase of 38% from 2011. The BYOD program consists of phones, tablets and ultra-books. It has also stated although productivity has been improved it has had less of an impact on cost savings. Given the perceived problems around data security and BYOD, it’s great to see a company being so flexible and letting employees choose their own devices.

Apple CEO promises device innovation to shareholders
Speaking at a recent shareholders meeting, Apple CEO Tim Cook promises new innovation and a new product line but strangely failed to confirm when they are planning to unveil this! The promise of innovation was surely needed to calm shareholders as Apples shares and phone market share has been steadily declining despite continued strong sales. There are rumours from numerous sources that claim this new line of products could either be a smart TV or a smart watch. Out of these two the smart watch seems more likely but we are unsure if Apple could convince the mass market it is something they need.

€561 million euro fine for Microsoft
Microsoft has been fined by the European Commission for failing to comply with 2009s commitment to let users choose their default browser. EC’s competition commission determined Microsoft had an unfair advantage in the browser market as 95% of machines would come pre-installed with Internet Explorer. The failure to keep this commitment was a technical one which Microsoft brought to the attention of The EC. The software would only run on specific versions of the Windows OS, which was not update to include SP1 of Windows 7, resulting in millions of users not getting the browser choice prompt. Microsoft said it took “full responsibility” for the technical error that caused the problem, and apologised for it. Looking at the modern technology trends, could we be expecting Apple to receive a similar notice relating to browser choice for the tablet sector?

HP sells WebOS to LG for Smart TVs and Smart devices
In 2010 HP picked up the gesture friendly mobile OS: WebOS in its acquisition of Palm for $1.2 billion. However shortly after releasing its own WebOS tablet, HP publically stated its immediate plans to stop all future production for WebOS hardware. WebOS has now been picked up by LG, who has stated its focus for WebOS will be on smart TVs. WebOS has its roots in both phones and tablets and LG may be using Smart TVs as a low risk move to develop the OS further and test user feedback before releasing their own WebOS smart phones and tablets. We believe this is a clear attempt to differentiate from the current Android crowd.

Evernote hacked, 50 million accounts compromised
Last weekend Evernote revealed it was the latest victim of a cyber-attack which potentially compromised the passwords of 50 million users. Evernote quickly forced all 50 million accounts passwords to reset to combat this and promises it is accelerating its plans to roll out two-factor authentication, to make the note storing platform more secure. This recent data breach provides more evidence that a single password isn’t secure enough and we stress all readers to use different passwords across online accounts.