UK Businesses Lead the Way

Flexible Working

UK small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) are leading the way in ensuring staff work securely in the BYOD era, with 34% of decision-makers saying their businesses have policies, procedures and/or IT systems in place to manage the use of personal communications devices for business purposes. This compares to an average of 28% in Europe and the rest of the world, and only 19% in the U.S.

These were among the key findings of a global survey of senior executives and managers in more than 1250 small and medium businesses across Europe, North America and Australia, undertaken by YouGov on behalf of Citrix. This follows a similar study conducted in 2011 exploring the implications of increasing consumerisation of technology in the workplace.

The need for a dedicated security strategy was underlined by the fact that as many as 47% of respondents surveyed in the UK said their employees are already using their personal devices for work. This is further emphasised by 55% of senior directors and managers saying they rely on smart phones compared to 54% who selected PCs and 52% laptops.

“In encouraging mobile flexible working, it is good to see the UK taking the lead in putting security policies in place,” confirms Robert Gratzl, managing director, VP and GM EMEA, online services division at Citrix. “They are rightly anxious about their firms’ potential exposure, with particular concerns around remote network access and document downloads, for example.

“However, like other countries, they still have some way to go, with almost two-thirds possibly lacking the tools and processes to automatically delete business information from employees’ personal devices if, for example, they are lost or stolen.”

Changing working practices

A quarter (25%) of SMB respondents said they are under more pressure to introduce or increase mobile, flexible working practices than they were 5 years ago. This figure is higher than two years ago (21%), but still lower than the global average (34%).

Productivity gains

Half (50%) of respondents who say staff are allowed to use their own devices are now achieving measurable productivity and efficiency gains of up to 30% as a result of adopting personal devices and consumer-focused tools in the workplace, with a further 14% achieving increases of more than 30%. This represents a significant improvement over 2011, when only 46% were securing tangible efficiency gains.

Today, more firms are able to identify how flexible work practices are directly driving business performance, as the number of SMEs seeing no measurable improvement has halved over the same period, down from 27% to just 14%.

“The move to a more mobile workplace, or ‘workshifting’, is being encouraged at all levels of the business,” confirms Gratzl. “SMBs are increasingly investing in technologies to support this – with nearly twice as many now providing smartphones to their staff compared to two years ago – as they recognise the tangible value of enabling staff to work anywhere, with anyone equally effectively.”

Modern meeting culture

Another key reason why SMBs are responding positively to high quality collaboration tools such as HD video and audio is that they are recognised as supporting more effective meetings.

•25% of decision makers say they spend more than 5 hours a week in meetings, with 22% spending more time in meetings now than they did five years ago.

•46% already use video conferencing at work, with 63% of these using these tools more than a year ago. The highest number of respondents (32%) cite the improvement in technologies, followed by 28% who highlight the ability to work remotely with customers and partners.

•25% (rising to 32% across all countries surveyed) experience a drop in productivity over the summer months, between May and September.

Clive Longbottom, industry analyst at Quocirca, says: “As the barriers between work and personal lives continue to come down, organisations are now in a position where the traditional fall-off in business activity in the summer can be offset through the targeted use of advanced collaboration tools.

“Video-conferencing, online meetings, web application-sharing and other tools can enable a holidaying employee to quickly and effectively resolve any problems early on and return to their break, benefitting them and their employer.”

The importance of collaboration

SMBs are supporting the greater use of personal devices and consumer-focused tools with remote access software (up from 14% in 2011 to 19% in 2013) and remote IT tools (up from 15% to 18%).

“The survey findings highlight how collaboration is central to the creation of an effective, agile and flexible working environment, with benefits to the business, its staff and customers,” says Gratzl.

“However, firms must recognise that enabling the use of personal devices also presents a formidable challenge to the IT support team, in looking both to maintain secure remote access and business continuity, at the same time taking full advantage of a more tech-savvy, self-help workforce.”

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