The workday is changing. The prevalence of mobile devices in the enterprise and the collaboration enabled by the cloud mean that many organizations are shifting from a centralized office environment to include remote access and work from home models.
These models aren't just a nice perk anymore—they're actually affecting a company's ability to attract and retain talent. According to The Death of the Desk Job, a study commissioned by IT consulting firm Softchoice, employees are placing more and more emphasis on the flexibility of their workday.
The study surveyed 1,700 full-time employees of various industries throughout North America. It examined this change in the work day among these employees, and the tech that is empowering the shift.
The initial major takeaway from the study is that 78% of respondents highly value their ability to work remotely, and 70% said they'd be willing to leave their job for one with more flexibility around when and where they could work.
"The thing that resonated the most with me is that people are actually thinking about and willing to either choose an employer because of their flexibility in this area, or even leave an employer because of their rigidness in this area," said Francis Li, vice president of information technology at Softchoice.
Of those surveyed, 62% said they felt more productive working outside of the office, and 72% work remotely at least once a month. Of those that work remotely, they use the following tools to access their data:
- Email - 63%
- Cloud apps - 49%
- Remote desktop - 30%
For these employees, there are two major components that are altering the workday: Flexible hours and remote access to their work. For this study, 86% valued flexible hours and 78% said they valued remote access in the workplace. Because of this new, adjustable workday, 75% of respondents said they could keep more personal and social commitments.
Although working from home is an old concept, it has been gaining traction in the past few years. As far as employees having more choice over when and where they work, 55% said they had more choice compared to 2-3 years ago, 10% said they didn't have more choice, and 35% said they had the same amount of choice.
In terms of how that workday breaks down, most of us are probably familiar with the typical eight hour work day, typically from nine to five. But, 61% of the respondents said they prefer those eight hours broken up over a longer period than a straight shot. What's interesting though, when the demographics are broken down, millennials results are actually reversed, with almost 60% favoring the traditional eight hour work day.
"I do think that there is more emphasis on work/life balance and [millennials] won't tolerate as much as previous generations would have, having to put in hours that conflict with their personal lives," Li said.
Of course, a big part of enabling this new style of work comes with providing the right tools to get the job done. For the respondents to this study, 59% were given a device for work purposes, and the platform broke down like this:
- Laptops - 83%
- Mobile phones - 44%
- Tablets - 21%
- Wearables - 1.5%
The study then broke down how those who were given work devices responded to certain prompts versus their counterparts who were not provided a work device. A larger percentage of those with work devices felt they were more productive and happier with their jobs than those without devices.
Although, one of the most interesting statistics from that point of the study was that more respondents with a work device (39%) felt they were expected to work after hours compared to those without a device (8%). What's even more interesting is that despite this work outside of the office, 45% of employees with a device said they had the optimal work-life balance while only 27% of those without a work device said the same thing.
Li said there seems to be an expectation, especially if a device is company supported through a mobile allowance, that the employee will be available outside of traditional office hours. Even though they are working more outside the office, though, these employees with devices felt like they could better manage their work against their personal life.
Generally, Li believes people would rather get small things off their plate if they can do it in a few minutes after work, than have it all pile up to be dealt with the following morning. The survey also found that a big chunk of employees are also working remotely on both sick days and on vacation.
Despite this trend, 76% of those surveyed said that their organization doesn't have policies in place to govern work outside of normal business hours.
Even with its clear value, face to face communication has become less important. Moving forward, Li said he expects we'll continue to see a more decentralized workforce and, as such, more organizations will need to make investments in technologies that enable collaboration in other ways.
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Conner Forrest has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.