Remote working, fuelled by increasingly ubiquitous access to the Internet via a plethora of devices, will be the way humanity finally fully integrates work and life, making each a seamless aspect of the other.
“Until very recently, people have tended to think of their work being separate from the rest of their lives,” says Sean Wainer, Citrix South Africa country manager.
“With that separation has come the 9-to-5 mentality in which work is not permitted to intrude on one’s life outside of certain hours and in which life is not permitted to interfere with – or, indeed, enrich – work. The ensuing disconnectedness has led to people struggling to find a work life balance.
“Now, the disconnectedness is becoming even more pronounced, with the continuing global financial crisis, global warming and its related environmental threats, and mass social and cultural upheavals such as the Arab spring changing the world as we understand it.
“The military sum up disruption happening on so many different fronts as VUCA – volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. At Citrix, we call it VUUCA, because the levels of uncertainty are reaching ‘unusual’ proportions.
“One of the ways in which people are coping with the exceptional level of uncertainty is to be more productive so as to maintain their standard of living. And, because technology has become so intuitive to use and so closely linked, via social media, to lifestyle preferences, people are instinctively using it to life slice; to merge work and play by moving smoothly from one to the other and back many times a day.
“They are, for instance, creating corporate budgets on the sidelines of their son’s school rugby matches, checking design blueprints on the beach, and collaborating from a coffee shop with colleagues on the other side of the world. A survey conducted in South Africa by Vanson Bourne indicates a huge upsurge in white-collar contract workers with nearly half the organisations interviewed indicating they make extensive use of white-collar contract workers. Interestingly, 34 percent of respondents indicated that they opted for contract work in order to gain more flexibility.
“Supporting this, a study done by American Express shows that remote workers are 40% more productive than their office-bound colleagues. At Citrix, we believe this is a result, at least in part, of their going beyond work life balance to work life harmony.
“The problem is that most employers are still desperately clinging to “presenteeism”, or people being in the office, because it’s the way they believe they can measure the work for which they’re paying. In the survey mentioned earlier, results showed that that only 5 percent of South African organisations actively encourage workers to use their own devices. This is a very low number, especially when compared with BRIC countries, where 53 percent of companies are actively encouraging BYO. This just shows that South Africa is behind when compared to the rest of the world and more importantly it demonstrates that South Africa needs to aggressively adopt this trend to keep up gobally.”
“In other words, organisations are insisting on paying for employee time as a commodity rather than placing a realistic value on employee intellectual capital, capacity for innovation, and ability to maintain a competitive edge.
“However, the remote working revolution is going to force organisations to change. Contrary to what organisations think, remote working is not an IT challenge. It’s an HR one. In fact, it’s a strategic one.”
The challenge is becoming increasingly urgent as companies like Citrix develop progressively more sophisticated, automated, and intelligent systems that enable people to securely access corporate data from anywhere at any time and collaborate and share documents across geographic boundaries in live Facebook-like environments.
In effect, Citrix is putting mobility and the cloud together, creating ‘cloud era solutions’. These include enabling users to, for example, do high definition video conferencing on an iPad using GoToMeeting, do their shopping on Amazon, thanks to Netscaler, or log on to their work systems from anywhere, thanks to virtual desktop environments.
The advantages of such systems are not limited to the users. They also eradicate the need for IT departments hands-on control the way users access corporate data.
“Users and technology are feeding off one another symbiotically,” Wainer says. “Users are innovating with the latest technologies and developers are following up on those innovations with progressively cleverer devices and apps.
“The problem, however, is that as the possibilities increase so do the points at which an organisational IT system can fail. So, organisations need to take a different approach. Instead of optimising all the variables in a system, the emphasis should be on eliminating as many parts as possible, while continuously increasing system capability and user productivity. “
Achieving this means moving away from the traditional focus on operating systems. Smartphones, tablets, and phablets have made the app king, irrespective of the underlying operating system. In the same way, the device is becoming irrelevant, because there is software now available that enables all data and apps to be delivered in high quality and at high performance levels to all devices, regardless of the underlying operating system.
“All of which frees the organisation from most of the management and maintenance constraints of providing secure access to information to its user base, slashing IT costs,” Wainer says. “This, in turn, means that the organisation gets all the productivity and competitive edge benefits of remote working at far less cost than its 9 to 5 approach could ever deliver.
“Which really does make embracing remote working a no brainer for any organisation.”