The 21st-century workforce, addicted to the wealth of choice they enjoy as consumers, has been pushing back against the rigid work schedules, locations, job descriptions and user technologies of traditional offices.
According to 2017 research by Herman Miller, on average, private offices are empty 77 percent of the time, and workstations are empty 60 percent of the time. In one way or another, users have already left the building.
This shift in workforce dynamics is leading many organizations to consider moving toward choose-your-own-workstyle (CYOW) models, the natural next phase in workplace evolution. The movement started with BYOD, which many IT leaders resisted but now manage to their advantage.
Efforts to maintain some control and, thus, security led to choose-your-own-device programs, where IT teams issue and manage devices chosen by users. Now, organizations are realizing they can see significant ROI by giving users a say in where they work and leveraging on-premises and cloud services to deliver a personalized digital workspace.
A June 2017 study by Global Workplace Analytics shows that roughly 20 to 25 percent of U.S. workers telework with some frequency and about 80 to 90 percent would like to telework at least part time.
“Flexible work models increase productivity, reduce turnover, reduce absenteeism, improve continuity of operations and reduce environmental impact,” says Kate Lister, the consultancy’s president. In addition, employers save about $12,000 annually for every user who works remotely about half the time.
Giving Workers Flexibility Increases Job Satisfaction
Progressive organizations are rolling out formal CYOW programs to better attract, retain and engage talent and optimize their real-estate footprint. They’re designing appealing, activity-based workspaces; assessing performance based on results rather than process; and investing in technologies that support objectives. Generally, effective flexible work models have users work remotely at least part time, with the cost-savings/productivity sweet spot somewhere between two to three days a week.
Giving users the autonomy — and preferred devices and apps — to work where, when and how they want is a business booster shot. Those putting CYOW programs in place in 2017 will increase employee retention rates by more than 10 percent by 2020, according to predictions from Gartner.
Further, 82 percent of workers in a 2014 FlexJobs survey said a flexible work schedule would increase their loyalty to their employer, while nearly 40 percent have refused a promotion or quit because such options weren’t on the table.
Business Units Should Partner with IT on CYOW Models
To realize the substantial ROI of a CYOW program, top executives must make it integral to their long-term strategic business plan. Typically, one department, usually IT, human resources or facilities, launches a flexible work program with different priorities, says Lister. It’s when these key functions collaborate on a shared strategy that they drive business growth and cut costs.
For CIOs, a CYOW model helps to eliminate shadow IT, a situation that occurs when users deploy their own technology solutions and services without IT staff oversight, says Current Analysis analyst Tim Banting, who focuses on collaboration and communications technologies. To make it work, he says, IT leaders must advocate for their users while assessing their needs.
That means getting their input before choosing new collaborative applications. “IT managers not only make users more productive, but see returns on their investments,” Banting says. “Nobody wants to see a lump of plastic they purchased sitting idly on a desk, doing nothing for the user or business.”
Team Collaboration Platforms Boost Productivity
CYOW is more than just email and chat tools. Atop the must-have list are digital collaboration platforms with integrated toolsets that enable IT to add new functionality through third-party services.
“They integrate with third-party apps and are equally effective for individual or collaborative work, as they bring together voice, video, screen sharing, content sharing and persistent messaging in one space,” he says.
Flexible Work Requires Security, Especially for Mobile
Compared to rigid workforce structures, CYOW increases the moving parts comprising IT ecosystems by many multiples. IT teams should review their mobility management and security posture, as well as the infrastructure’s ability to handle diverse sets of endpoints, internet access needs of distributed employees, new collaboration suites and larger, more complex data sets.
Securing proliferating devices while delivering a great user experience takes a steady hand. Citrix has spent 30 years doing just that.
“Today, the conversation’s all about workspace services,” says Dan Cote, Citrix director of product marketing for desktops and apps. Using XenDesktop and XenApp to virtualize desktops and applications, administrators can centralize management of personalized digital workspaces for use on any device, anywhere.
Both products integrate federated authentication services, which improve security and user satisfaction through single sign-on (SSO). Services communicate with Active Directory and other identity management products. “Employees can access their web, Software as a Service and on-premises applications via SSO, a highly productive way to use all their apps without jumping through the usual hoops,” says Cote.
To cover the mobile security landscape, Citrix, VMware AirWatch, MobileIron and others provide enterprise mobility management solutions. Citrix’s XenMobile, for instance, combines mobile device and application management, business-grade productivity apps and security policy enforcement.
Cloud Services Help Businesses Stay Agile
The agility needs of CYOW models will drive increasing reliance on cloud services as organizations strive to stay nimble while easing infrastructure burdens.
Cloud services are moving toward becoming the dominant deployment option for collaborative apps. Today, more IT teams run hybrid clouds, keeping sensitive systems on-premises but using cloud-based collaboration applications. Videoconferencing, for one, is tailor-made for the cloud.
“IT gets scalability and can mix and match components without deploying premises-based equipment,” says Banting.
For its part, Citrix has developed cloud versions of its entire product line. If CIOs don’t have an administrator with the skills to manage a virtualized workload infrastructure via XenDesktop, they can have it running through the cloud in hours. With its Unidesk acquisition, Citrix acquired app-layering technology, a game-changer for teams managing templates for hundreds of virtualized applications.
With layering, each app is abstracted from the operating system and put in its own layer.
“IT builds images on the fly, based on user preferences,” says Cote. “They only manage layers once for use anywhere, so they see tremendous efficiencies.”