Work and life more connected among tech savvy workers

Well-connected workers are more likely than their less tech-savvy peers to blur the lines between work and personal life, according to a recent survey.

About one-third of hyper-connected workers used social networking for business, compared to just 12 per cent on average, the survey conducted by Framingham-Mass. based IDC reveals.

But as the number of devices multiply and connectivity methods inside an enterprise expand, security concerns also become more urgent.

The survey was commissioned by Toronto-based Nortel Networks to measure the connectedness of working adults internationally.

The survey results were released at an event held at Nortel’s headquarters in Toronto on Tuesday.

Businesses should prepare for a new global culture that demands constant connection to the Internet through multiple devices and rejects barriers between work and personal life, the analyst firm says.

In its white paper, IDC offers businesses a host of suggestions on how to revamp everything from recruitment methods to network security measures.

“This goes across international boundaries and across time zones. Now you can look at the marketplace as a global one, and not just local,” says Vito Mabrucco, managing director at IDC Canada in Toronto.

“This culture of connectivity might actually be our first global culture.”

The survey found 16 per cent of workers juggled at least seven devices and nine applications for personal and business communications.

Nortel and IDC label this group as “hyperconnected.”

“We’re moving beyond full connectivity,” says John Roese, chief technology officer with Nortel. “We’re moving to an environment where everyone is connected through a plurality of devices.”

The largest group of workers, at 36 per cent, used at least four devices and access at least six applications.

But IDC predicts the largest group will soon be those with the highest level of connectivity, Mabrucco says. This will be driven up as costs lower and young workers gain access to more devices.

Businesses should take note of the trend and prepare their infrastructure to deal with both customers and employees who demand the highest levels of connectivity, the IDC white paper says.

That includes adopting technologies such as unified communications that open more channels of customer interaction and quick decision making.

Nortel’s Roese says technology will begin to shift towards offering connectivity as a buried feature instead of pushing it up front as a feature with a monthly fee.

He points to Amazon’s Kindle e-reader as an example. The device charges per book downloaded, not for the connection to Amazon’s database.

“It is excessively easy to spend $30 or $50 without even thinking about it,” he says. “There will be many more Kindles as we go forward.”

Companies also need to develop a technology-savvy strategy if they are to attract the most talented upcoming young workers, recommends the white paper.

Human Resources departments should help woo those workers with an enriched application and connectivity environment.

The scope of that outreach should include mobile devices – as the most connected workers are using them to text from their cars (60 per cent), beds (45 per cent), and places of worship (20 per cent).

“We were too embarrassed to ask them if they’re texting from bathrooms, but I’m guessing that they are,” Mabrucco says.

Young workers are now used to having access to various social networks through their connected devices, and companies shouldn’t remove that with bans on Facebook, Roese says.

Instead, focus on how that can be used for business advantage, he says.

“They are just as likely to be on Facebook talking with their co-workers as they are to be on Facebook talking about their social life,” he says. “They expect their connectivity experience in their personal lives to transition into their work experience.”

“Our security policies will have to change,” Roese says. “It has to be about a protected environment that is still fluid and has few constraints for the workers using it.”

The survey polled 2,367 men and women over 17 who were employed and used a PC at work as well as a PDA or mobile phone. The survey is correct within +/- two percentage points 19 times out of 20.

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