Organisations recognise that giving people the ability to work from anywhere, any time, is a win-win for everyone.

Over the last decade we have witnessed an explosion in the number of people accessing high-speed Internet and a dramatic increase in personal mobility. Against this backdrop, organisations are determined to reduce business and IT costs, create greater workplace flexibility, increase employee attraction and retention, and improve support for an increasingly remote and mobile workforce. These technology trends and the resulting benefits are a catalyst for redefining the traditional workplace.

As the perception of work changes from a place we go, to what we do, organisations recognise that giving people the ability to work from anywhere, at any time, is a win-win for everyone. This has been made possible through the implementation of a workshifting strategy. Workshifting is about allowing people to choose the ideal time, place and device for their work. It is transforming the way modern organisations operate. In fact, it is no longer an aspiration for people, it is a requirement. The best thing about workshifting is that it benefits both people and organisations.

Decoupling the work ‘place’

In the Citrix Global Workshifting Index, 93 per cent of senior IT decision-makers stated that they intend to provide flexible work environments by 2013. A key driver for this was the reduction of business costs and the ability to make smarter use of workspace. By separating the physical workspace from the logical workspace, IT organisations and facilities teams can work together to find the best mix of cost savings, employee productivity, and satisfaction to meet the unique needs of their organisation.

This is great news for organisations and employees because the costs saved by reducing the real estate footprint can be utilised to make workspaces smarter, enriching the work experience for all employees. Creating a more inspiring workspace, focused on collaborative design, improves both productivity and morale.

The new smarter workspace gives people the ability to securely access data and applications wherever, whenever and however they choose, while allowing IT to centrally manage them. With alternative workplace strategies, the restrictions of a traditional office-centric workplace are removed.

Furthermore, even during a business disruption or in an emergency, mobile work strategies allow people to access the resources they require from any location. In the Citrix Global Security Index, more than 90 per cent of organisations agreed that desktop virtualisation is one of the primary ways to meet business continuity requirements securely.

Mobile, flexible and secure

As people increasingly choose to work from varied locations, the endpoint environment becomes dispersed and complex. This requires an IT infrastructure with the ability to power the modern mobile workforce. By centralising data in the data-centre, organisations can provide people with on-demand and secure granular access to critical business information, when and where they need it. When complemented by collaboration services, such as online meetings and file sharing, the productivity of the workforce increases even more.

Improved security is a mainstay of a desktop virtualisation infrastructure. It provides the compliance and privacy foundation required for organisations that are implementing workshifting. In fact, according to those surveyed in the Citrix Global Security Index, 92 per cent of organisations have adopted, or are adopting, desktop virtualisation to improve information security.

This is particularly important for tele-workers logging on from home devices and potentially unsecured networks. If the device is lost or stolen, there is a reduced risk to enterprise data as it is not stored on the end point. Desktop virtualisation can also help to protect enterprise data from malicious threats and maintain regulatory compliance.

Getting the balance right

Workshifting eligibility can vary depending on the job role and individual performance. Some job roles, such as a retail clerks, machine operators, and financial traders, require an on-site physical presence. However, the benefits of teleworking are still widely recognised. An encouraging 63 per cent of respondents in the Citrix Global Workshifting Index indicated that they were implementing workshifting to allow people (teleworkers) to work from home.

Therefore, workshifting can play a critical part in attracting top talent and broadening the labour pool. By lifting geographic restrictions, and enabling work from any location, new employees can still be fully integrated into a company’s operations. Thus, an organisation has its pick of top talent and can strategically tap into lower-cost labour pools, further reducing costs. In fact, half of the organisations in the Citrix Global Workshifting Survey recognised the advantages of workshifting for attracting and retaining top talent.

Mobile workstyles also enable people to work at the time that best suits them and their workload commitments. This benefits split-shift, part-time, work-at-home and other workers that require optimum flexibility and the ability to provide a rapid response to unexpected situations at work. Not only does this increase the potential coverage hours, it allows people the domestic flexibility they want, and need, to maintain a good work-life balance.

By allowing people to work when it is most convenient for them, workshifting can significantly improve work-life balance. This can increase employee satisfaction and retention rates — keeping trained, skilled and experienced people productive. In the Citrix Global Workshifting Index, 64 per cent of those questioned cited increased productivity as a common goal. Through workshifting, an organisation can also offer third parties — from contractors to outsourcing partners — secure, selective access to data and applications, facilitating integration with the organization.

Enabling productivity

Desktop virtualisation, online meetings, file sharing and collaboration can provide organisations with the foundation on which to build workshifting strategies. Smarter and more collaborative workspaces are transforming the way business is done. Workshifting has enabled modern workstyles, reduced business costs and powered the adoption of flexible working. Although the drivers are unique to each organisation, two of the top three primary reasons to implement desktop virtualisation are linked to workshifting.

Mobile workstyles mean people can work at optimum times, locations and on the most appropriate device. This improves productivity and the ability to balance work-life needs. Organisations now have the tools to be more productive, agile and flexible, resulting in the attraction and retention of both a cost-efficient, engaged and highly skilled workforce.

(The author is the Vice-President, Product Marketing and Strategy, Citrix.)

(This article was published on September 6, 2012)
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