Free money…or is it?

by Brian Katz on October 18, 2012 · 5 comments

I spend a lot of time thinking about mobility and the enterprise. Some of it is due to my job, other times it is due to the great friends and colleagues I get to talk to but mostly its because I just find the whole topic interesting. They do say do what you love. What I find most interesting is the number of enterprises that really haven’t figured the topic out at all. Many of them haven’t started looking at integrating mobile into their strategy and of the few that are, most of them are only approaching it in a half hazard way.

My only question for all these companies is, “What the hell are you waiting for?” Does it require us to lay out a yellow brick road made of gold in order for you to embrace mobile? In almost all of these companies, there are people chomping at the bit to use their own devices or company provided ones to get their work done. They are looking at their work and are finding needs that mobile can fulfill towards letting them work anytime, from anywhere, to get their job done.

We know that the best way to embrace mobile is to build it based upon the business needs while working with the users to enable them. We are looking to empower our users to get their job done, hopefully more efficiently, but certainly more productively. Everywhere we look we see those productivity gains happening. We read one survey that points out that people are working, on average, an extra 7 hours per week. Another survey shows that many are working an extra 20 hours a week. This shows a large gain in productivity for users although not necessarily efficiency. (Remember efficiency = amount of work / amount of time, so more work being done in more time isn’t more efficient).

If we split the difference between the 2 surveys we find that the average worker is spending an extra 13 ½ hours a week doing their job. In almost all of these cases they aren’t being paid to do that work. If a company is paying an employee for working essentially a 40 hour work week and they are working an extra 13 ½ hours the company is getting all that extra work time for free. As an enterprise, why would you want to look away from free money. Step up and take it.

The truth of the matter is that it really is more complicated than free money. As you enable employees to get their work done anytime and any place, you run into the issue that many of your workers become part of the ‘always on’ culture. They have their devices with them where ever they may be and they find it difficult to not be reading emails, or doing work whenever. This can lead to huge imbalance of work life versus personal life. If you aren’t careful how you implement your policies you could start facing employees who burn themselves out rather quickly because they have a device addiction that they don’t know how to kick.

As important as it is to enable your users, sometimes you have to enable them to turn off as well. They need to be able to enjoy the downtime with their families and friends. One company has actually made it an official policy that you must take a vacation where you disconnect all electronic devices. The New York Times has an article that discusses the benefits of disconnecting every once in a while. It allows people to recharge their batteries and think up better solutions and yes, become more productive.

Companies can also experiment with the way they compensate people and switch from a pure pay a yearly salary to basing some of that pay on the amount of work actually performed. When you pay people for being productive it goes a long way towards keeping them from burning out and they feel better about the long hours that some of them will put in.

It’s important that companies stop leaving money on the table by building a mobile program that encourages their employees to flourish through enablement. The tale of the bottom line will read as a great story…

  • http://twitter.com/Bitzer_Walt Walter Paley

    I’m glad you took the positive point of view on this. The Twitter chat the other day was getting out of hand with the negativity.

    It’s the corporate culture (and individual work habits) that foster the burn-out from being always connected. I love the mandatory disconnected vacation! There are many ways for an employer to show appreciation for the hard work, dedication and extended availability that modern workers display every day through mobility.

    And you are absolutely right. If you are only getting productivity from your workforce while they are within the confines of your office, you are clearly falling behind your competitors.

  • http://twitter.com/ErnieHuber Ernie Huber

    Any time and any place does not have to equal “all the time” and “every place”.

    Its all about giving your employees flexibility and freedom to get the work you need them to get done in a manner that is most effective for them.

    I agree it is about corporate culture but we shouldn’t have to go as far as to have a disconnect policy. If we communicate expectations and set the tone at the top with our actions that should be enough.

    • http://twitter.com/nupoet Ricky Cielma

      Very well said. Just because you’re mobile doesn’t mean you’re always turned on. I enjoy the fact that I’m able to work from anywhere and at anytime, but as you pointed out, that doesn’t mean I’m always working from everywhere.

      I have the flexibility to chose where and when mobile works for me, there is no formal policy in place to tell me when I shouldn’t be working. And while diminishing returns is certainly a concern, who do we put the onus on to decide what is too much and who regulates? The employee? Formal corporate policy?

      • http://twitter.com/bmkatz Brian Katz

        Ernie and Ricky –
        I don;t know that you need a formal policy that stands by itsef but it should be part of your acceptable use policy. An AUP shouldn’t be just what you shouldn’t do but also what you should do. This would be a perfect place for this.
        In this day and age, while many don’t have an issue with turning off, some feel it is impossible as they are expected to be always on and answering queries etc. This really does leave people to burning out and it is an important issue.
        That being said, I can see your point.

        Brian

  • http://twitter.com/Wh1t3Rabbit Rafal Los

    As always, great post… some of my thoughts:
    – Employees ‘working more’ doesn’t necessarily mean better productivity – and I’m not just splitting hares here (see what I did there?), but rather noticing that a BYOD approach allows people to spend more time on ‘personal’ stuff during work hours, so they don’t have to work at the ‘office’ to catch up and do the same amount of work in more time …hope that made sense.
    - Great that you hit on the burnout point, I feel like I’ve been there and back a few times…

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