There is no doubt that BYOD and BYOA are changing the paradigm for remote workers-- and even changing the workplace itself in some cases-- but the nature of that change is sometimes surprising. As might be expected, BYO trends and improved mobile technology are empowering remote employees to take control of their workspace, as Yorgen Edholm, CEO of Accellion, a provider of secure mobile file-sharing solutions, observes. But when Alison Paige Ruge, lead user-experience researcher at Cisco’s Collaboration Technology Group, conducted an intensive study of remote workers late last year, she found that BYOD also brings additional complexity to the IT paradigm.
“Remote workers, empowered with BYOD policies, run smack into IT walls more often and harder than those who conform to an IT-driven way of working,” Ruge reports. The added complexity that BYOD brings to the table forces decisions that count universal access, regardless of operating system, and remote access as top-priority success metrics. “Remote workers often find shortcuts around the IT systems so they can achieve the level of access they need to reach each other, their files, and databases using consumer-quality tools,” she says. “At some point, IT realizes they can’t afford not to supply business-quality tools that provide seamless, fast access to remote workers.”
Now more than ever before, the workplace is about finding the right setting for the specific work you are doing at that moment, says Robert Krestakos, chief information officer at Steelcase Inc., a global leader in the office furniture industry. “For example, some settings can significantly augment collaboration and teamwork, while others are much more conducive to contemplative, individual work. The key to success is allowing employees to make choices about their work setting and providing an environment for employees to move between these settings seamlessly and frequently,” he says.
BYOD is also contributing to another important trend that is shaping the future of the traditional workplace. “BYOD has created a new, 24/7 paradigm that blurs the work-life balance,” says Sergio Galindo, head of global product management at GFI Software, which creates IT solutions for small and medium-sized businesses. A recent blind study conducted by GFI found that 81 percent of SMB employees check their work email on weekends, 59 percent check it while on vacation, and 55 percent do so after 11 p.m. On the flip side, nearly a third of respondents admitted to sending personal emails from their work accounts. “BYOD has changed the workplace by redefining what constitutes a workplace and by creating a new concept of the so-called workday,” he says.
While conventional wisdom might suggest remote work and BYOD would create a significant additional strain on IT support, real-world experience indicates otherwise. In the Cisco study, none of the workers interviewed mentioned issues of downtime and safety as a problem with their IT solutions. As Ruge notes, “Maintaining servers and keeping them secure are part of the core IT competencies.” The BYO movement is actually reducing reliance on internal IT while improving security, argues Adam Hartung, managing partner at Spark Partners, an innovation and growth consultancy. “In the BYO world, the quality of applications, data storage, backups, and security is elevated to world-class-- better than, or as good as, the world’s largest corporations,” he says. “Reliance on internal, limited, and frequently challenged IT departments is greatly reduced or eliminated.”