SINGAPORE--Making allowance for bring-your-own device (BYOD) practices in an organization leads to happier and more productive employees, which also has a positive effect on staff retention, according to results from an Asia-Pacific study released Thursday.
Commissioned by VMware and conducted by Acorn Marketing & Research Consultants, the "New Way of Work Study" found that 64 percent of employees in multinational corporations (MNCs) across the region said their efficiency had improved thanks to the use of personal devices to complete work tasks.
Some 63 percent also said they actively sought Web-based software applications to boost their own productivity, revealed the survey, which was carried out between January and February this year. It polled 2,077 employees, aged between 18 and 64 years, working in MNCs from 10 Asian countries: Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, India, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Japan, and South Korea.
According to the survey findings, 78 percent of respondents said they brought their own devices to work, including laptops, smartphones and tablets.
Among them, South Korea ranked the highest at 96 percent. The rest of the top five were China, 94 percent; Thailand, 90 percent; Hong Kong, 89 percent; and Singapore, 88 percent. Japan ranked the lowest at 22 percent.
Andrew Dutton, senior vice president and general manager at VMware Asia-Pacific and Japan, told ZDNet Asia that while BYOD adoption among employees was not new or surprising, the extent and pace of how it had proliferated into the mainstream was "unbelievable".
Despite the rapid uptake among employees, though, 57 percent noted that their workplaces did not provide technical support for BYOD.
The survey also found that more than a third, or 38 percent, of respondents said restrictive IT policies at work affected their on-the-job efficiency, while another 22 percent said such restrictions affected their ability to problem-solve.
Dutton emphasized that IT policies were important for companies to manage business risk and ensure compliant, responsible actions among employees. However, he cautioned that staff would feel stifled if policies were too restrictive about how personal devices could be used.
"No one is trying to [rebel against] company policies. People just want to get their job done and they will find the best and most productive way to do it, [whether] it's the smartphone, collaborative technology or basic e-mail…The personal life and work life now exist on the same devices," he said.
"What all this means is the old, big-brother approach of IT [policies] where you can lock a PC and software on a desk has gone away and will never come back."
Device freedom means happier employees
According to the study, 61 percent of respondents said they were happier in their jobs and, hence, more productive when they could use their self-chosen devices and Web-based tools.
In addition, 58 percent said they preferred working for companies that were more open to personal choices of software and hardware devices.
These findings highlight that the BYOD trend has influence over job satisfaction and retention of staff, which ultimately impacts companies, Dutton said.
"[People are now looking] at a choice between a company with very tight IT policies and one that trusts you to do your job. If more employees leave, the cost of recruitment and training [for companies] becomes staggering," he said.
ZDNet Asia spoke with working professionals in Singapore who expressed mixed opinions about BYOD as a pull factor to join a company.
Karen Peng, who works in marketing, said she would appreciate the freedom of personal device choice but added that this was "not a must-have that will make or break my decision to stay with the company".
Jean Goh, a corporate communications executive in a government agency, said her employer does not allow the use of personal devices for work tasks. She added that BYOD practices were not universally applicable across all types of companies, particularly for public sector.
Nick Tan, who is also in the marketing field, said while accessing work e-mail on his Apple iPhone theoretically allows him to be more engaged with his work tasks, it also creates risks that company information can be lost, stolen and misused by unauthorized persons.
"When this happens, the problem then is whose fault is it--mine or the company?" Tan highlighted.
Tools available to support safe BYOD
Dutton said rapid proliferation of BYOD adoption had brought a fundamental shift among IT departments.
IT heads, he explained, do recognize the need to accommodate BYOD demands. However, until recently, these managers did not have adequate technologies to do so in a manner that was secure and compliant with company policies.
Infrastructure and software virtualization, for instance, now allow companies to support a BYOD model so end-users can focus on doing their jobs the way they choose to, and at the same time, not flout any IT regulations, he said.
"It is all about allowing appropriate computing to be delivered very quickly to the appropriate registered users," Dutton said.