While it has been long advised that people keep their work and personal lives separate, new research shows that letting employees use personal communication devices for work purposes may be a worthwhile exception to that rule.
Globally, employees who were allowed to use personal devices including laptops and tablets for business purposes reported productivity gains of 36 percent, according to a survey by the virtualization software company Citrix. In the United States, 53 percent of businesses reported increases in productivity of more than 10 percent while 16 percent reported gains in productivity of 30 percent or more.
No matter how appealing the productivity gain might be to employers, however, there are security and work-life balance concerns to be considered.
"There is a lot that can be done now without returning to the office," said Gayle Porter, professor of management at Rutgers University in Camden, whose own research has confirmed that employees who use their own personal devices do, indeed, get more work done.
"Employees can now do many things remotely, whereas it used to be that people would have to wait until they got to the office to have access to materials for work," she said.
Porter warns, however, that employers risk employee burnout if there are not restrictions on how much they work.
"When people are using devices at home, it can also have the unintended effect of pushing employees towards doing work without realizing it," said Porter. "It can lead to less-than-desirable habits in the work-life balance . I think that (with the use of personal devices for work) people can get a little paranoid about checking email or checking the status on certain things. More than likely there isn’t going to be a problem, but because employees know they can do it, they feel they should or they are required to (do work tasks)."
While the research presents interesting news about a link between personal devices and employee productivity gains, it also presents a challenging issue for information technology professionals. In fact, according to the Citrix survey, 57 percent of IT professionals cite potential security risks as one of their main concerns about the increasing mobilization of the workforce . Additionally, the survey found that more than half of all IT professionals are either unaware of what devices are being used for work purposes or lack a policy regarding the use of employee devices.
This, according to IT experts, is a big problem for companies of all sizes.
"Anytime you buy or implement an application, you need to first look into what are doing and look to see the risk and the rewards," said Shyam Gulati, chief executive officer of InfoPeople Corporation, an information technology firm specializing in software project development and infrastructure management. "We always try to cover the risks in more detail, but companies aren't going to stop using these applications. You need to make sure what the downside is and study it before implementing it. That being said though, the rewards in productivity that businesses can get from these technologies definitely outweigh the risks in a big way."