'Free-agent' employees pressuring IT to get it right: VMware

Increasingly, employees are after a work/life balance and the pressure is now on IT departments to provide the right infrastructure to support more mobile employees, a new study by VMWare shows.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of employees in Australia are now working outside of the office and are finding a work/life balance as a result, according to the third annual end-user computing study by VMware.

The study also showed that 42 percent agreed that trying to be more productive and less distracted was the key trigger for working offsite. In fact, 55 percent of employees agreed that the home and a home office was the ideal place to work compared to the company office at just 37 percent.

In turn, the study indicated employees are looking for equipment and hardware that allows them to work anywhere (61 percent), access applications they need on their own devices (58 percent), and provide a comprehensive and accepted flexible working policy (46 percent).

As a result, this is putting pressure on IT departments to provide the right infrastructure to support the more mobile worker. The study showed that from the IT department, employees expect equipment that works (66 percent), fast network access (55 percent), and quick or real-time responses to IT requests (55 percent). This is to enable workers to be productive outside of office hours (53 percent), to have seamless remote access to work from anywhere (48 percent), and flexibility to manage personal matters (41 percent).

"Technology is key when it becomes being an enabler to enable this flexibility," said Asanga Wanigatunga, VMware end-user computing senior product manager. "Organisations have started to develop strategies of what business services employees might need if they work off-site, as for certain jobs they might only need just email and calendar.

"But depending on job roles, they might need to have far more functions like enable applications and data, and add business level applications to that, so users can be just as effective when they're not in the building."

However, the employees that were surveyed said they feel the company does not meet their needs in terms of allowing them to be productive both in the office and offsite. For example, 57 percent felt their company IT polices are too strict, and another 36 percent agree that IT polices slow them down in terms of completing tasks. Meanwhile, 43 percent of respondents feel their company does not invest enough in new technology to help do their work.

"What we're finding is businesses are starting to build business cases to be able to enable this level of flexibility. I think the key is to work out is where do they want to start first," Wanigatunga said.

"For example, if we enable this to the contact centre is there a business benefit? We've seen benefits in organisations like iiNet, where they've enabled its call centre workers and that actually drove productivity gain because they're enabling their workforce access they didn't have before."

Wanigatunga warned that, from a business perspective, companies needed to look at the business use cases for working offsite before making it a reality.

"Will it be across the entire organisation or certain business function? At the end of the day from an organisation's perspective, if it doesn't make sense to do it and there's no business benefit, why do it in the first place, and that's key to identifying when it's suitable," he said.

Beyond this, Wanigatunga predicted the number of employees working offsite will be higher in coming years, attributing it to improved infrastructure and connectivity that will be enabled by the NBN, and the dispersed talent pool that exists in Australia with belief technology will help bring employees and employer together.

VMware's end-user computing study was conducted in January and February 2014, and surveyed 151 respondents across Australia.

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