Thumbs down for the office

Oct 25 2010 by Brian Amble Print This Article

The majority of employees across the world do not believe that they need to be in the office to be productive and are demanding the tools and flexibility to work where, when and how they like.

New research commissioned by technology company Cisco found that six out of 10 people believe that they can work as productively at home or on the move as they can in the office.

In Asia and Latin America, this sentiment was even more marked. More than nine of 10 employees in India, eight out of 10 in China and three-quarters of those in Brazil said that they did not need to work in an office to be productive.

Two-thirds of those surveyed said that they want to be able to use any device – personal or company-issued – to access corporate networks, applications, and information anywhere at any time, and they expect the types of devices to continue diversifying.

The study, which involved surveys of 2,600 workers and IT professionals in 13 countries, also found that so strong is the desire for greater flexibility that two-thirds of workers would choose a lower-paying job if it enabled them to choose how they worked and access corporate information.

"Employee mobility is a fact of life, and the business advantages are clear across many industries," said Cisco's Futurist, Dave Evans.

"Work is not a place anymore. It's a lifestyle, and the IT profession's role is only going to get more strategic as it tries to help businesses stay agile and increase productivity."

Of course, while technology now makes it perfectly possible for people to be productive without having to sit in the same building every day, many organizations are still stuck in the mindset that presence = productivity.

Yet as the report highlights, for employees who can access corporate networks, applications, and information outside of the office, about half of the respondents said they worked between two to three extra hours a day, and a quarter were putting in four extra hours or more.

Another obstacle to flexibility is a basic lack of preparedness, with almost half of the IT respondents admitting that they lack either the policies or the technology to support a more borderless, mobile workforce.

Not surprisingly, security is the top IT concern. But in contrast, employees often felt IT and corporate policies themselves are the obstacles and that security is just an excuse for inertia.

Cisco's Marie Hattar said that with modern technology, the whole concept of a fixed office environment is no longer critical.

"It is clear from the research findings that the desire among employees to be more mobile and flexible in their work lifestyles is extremely strong throughout the world – as strong as salary," she added.

"It is also evident that organizations need to embrace a borderless IT infrastructure to capture competitive advantage and increase employee satisfaction."