Mobility expands workday boundaries
Federal employees expect mobility solutions to change how they work, even if it is not always to their liking.
A survey by the 1105 Government Information Group found that feds are beginning to approach their jobs with different expectations. In the past, their notion of an office was fairly limited: It meant either their desk at the office and perhaps, if they were lucky, another desk at home.
But mobile technology is changing that. As more and more employees are able to use smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices to do their work, the desk is no longer the foundation of the workday.
The change began some years ago, when the first wave of mobile devices made it possible for workers to access their email, calendars and a few other resources. But as technology has changed, so have the expectations. Increasingly, these employees are looking to have easy access to a full range of work-related software.
Forty percent of respondents said they could use a mobile device to access all or nearly all of the applications available on their desktop system, and another 19 percent said they would have that ability in two years. Likewise, 29 percent said they could access enterprise applications now, with another 13 percent saying they would be able to do so in two years (see chart).
Furthermore, 69 percent of survey respondents said they agreed that their agencies are “actively working to improve access to agency resources for employees working in the field or on travel,” while 20 percent were neutral and only 11 percent disagreed. The survey also found that agencies are trying to give employees more flexibility to work in different areas of their office building or campus.
Agencies are investing in these capabilities for a reason: Employees who can access applications and data anytime, anywhere and using any device will get more work done than employees who go off-line whenever they leave the office.
But all this flexibility might come with a price for employees. Once employees have such easy access, they might find they are expected (if only tacitly) to be always available — evenings, weekends and vacations included. Seventy-three percent of respondents agreed that the use of mobile devices often results in more after-hours work by employees, while 19 percent were neutral and only 8 percent disagreed.
Workforce and productivity experts say this is a bad trend.
“To be truly productive, you need to slip your electronic leash,” writes workplace and leadership consultant Laura Stack, author of the books “What to Do When There’s Too Much to Do” and “The Exhaustion Cure” and “The Productivity Pro” blog.
Even during work hours, constant attention to the mobile device distracts people from the tasks at hand. When working on tough tasks, she advises clients to turn off their devices and check email only at set intervals.
“On a broader scale,” she writes on her blog, “set boundaries around your work-related tools when you go home at night or on the weekends. Tune out so you can enjoy family and friends.”