When it comes to embracing a mobile workforce, Canadian enterprises are a step ahead of their international counterparts, according to a new report by Johannesburg, South Africa-based global IT services provider Dimension Data Holdings plc.

According to the company’s 2016 Connected Enterprise Report, which Dimension based on a survey of 900 senior staff at large businesses across 15 countries, including Canada, some 20 per cent of Canadian organizations have employees working away from the office all the time – five times the international average. Nine per cent of Canadian organizations also make supporting remote workers their highest priority when planning collaboration strategies, which is nearly five times the global average as well.

Canadian organizations are also more likely than their international counterparts to have employees, partners, and customers across multiple countries, and are adopting cloud-based telephone systems more aggressively, according to the report.

While Dimension doesn’t speculate why Canadians might be more connected in its report, the results don’t surprise Darryl Wilson, Dimension Data Americas’ senior director of innovation and vertical solutions, who tells ITBusiness.ca that during his nine years in the Canadian market he’s seen a noticeable shift from offices with hundreds of employees required to be at work every day, to companies using the space for cooperative assignments while encouraging employees with more solitary tasks to work from home.

“When I see clients in downtown Toronto, they typically have seas of cubicles… and the utilization is not great – 60 to 70 per cent,” Wilson says. “And the biggest challenge, I find, is getting a meeting room – a place where we can collaborate.”

“There are many types of clients – big banks and consulting firms in Toronto – who very recently have consolidated 10 office spaces down to one with this kind of approach,” he says.

Of course, they can do so because technology has advanced sufficiently enough for employees to work from home without sacrificing access to their employer’s database, or discussions with clients, or even company meetings – assuming the necessary infrastructure is in place, which is why each of the employees Dimension interviewed, all of them from companies with at least 1000 workers, were in a position to shape their organization’s IT strategy.

“We’re talking to clients every day about workspaces for tomorrow,” Wilson says. “The need to change the way they serve their employees, which not only includes more meeting rooms, but also giving technology to people so that they can work remotely if they have to, giving them flexibility so these companies can attract and retain top talent.”

Of the 900 professionals interviewed worldwide, 580 were IT managers, IT directors, CIOs, and other systems professionals, while 320 were line of business managers. In Canada, Dimension interviewed 45 respondents, 30 of them IT leaders and 15 line of business managers.

Happily, their superiors appear to be listening, Wilson says – for financial reasons if nothing else, since remote employees result in smaller offices, and therefore lower real estate expenses, he says.

But the conversion doesn’t happen overnight, he warns, adding that he hopes Canadian enterprise managers who read the report are left with an idea of what to look out for.

“In Canada we found through the report that the CIO is typically the main decision maker when it came to choosing and implementing a collaboration technology solution,” Wilson says. “But it’s equally important to ensure that the CIO, the trusted partner, like Dimension Data, and the business are working in concert to make sure that the solution is the proper one and, more importantly, that it’s adopted.”

“It’s a global world… and if a business doesn’t want to be disrupted by someone else, they’re going to have to get themselves digitized,” he says.

Internationally, 44 per cent of respondents to Dimension’s report said that all of their offices were based in their country of origin, while 36 per cent said that all of their customers and business partners were located there. They also estimated that 35 per cent of their employees never work outside the office.

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