Smart phones are more than just phones today. Each of us is carrying a small computer in our pocket that is online all the time and lets us check the web and stay in touch with friends via social networking sites. But crucially these devices also allow us to stay in touch with work at all times.
A recent report in Total Telecom magazine suggests that the increase in Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) policies where companies encourage employees to use their own technology at work might be problematic because it forces employees to mix their work and home life on devices such as smartphones.
Leading voices from companies such as Microsoft, Google, and Vodafone have warned that employees working within a BYOD environment can be distracted at the office by their own personal information – social network updates for example – and then disturbed by work when at home during the hours that should be their own.
Different companies have different policies on this work-life balance issue such as Google insisting that they never sent corporate emails at the weekend or during the evening. However, regardless of any formal policies there is also a need to view this situation more as a change in the way we all work, rather than something that can be tidied up by publishing a few papers on email guidelines. To get this right requires a cultural change led from the top, not just recommendations from the HR team.
Allowing employees the flexibility to answer email anywhere and to participate in their work remotely is a great benefit for many, but any company offering this kind of flexibility needs to also introduce a culture that allows people to switch off and rest. If this culture does not exist then the flexibility to work remotely and at any time merely becomes the expectation that you will answer work messages at any time 24/7.
We live in a 24/7 work culture today, but if leadership is shown in how flexibility can be managed then it can increase productivity and employee satisfaction.