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How connectivity changes the workplace in the post-digital age

Up until December 2016, it was estimated that there were around 42.4 million smartphone users in the UK. The Labour Force Survey found that there were 31.85 million people in employment in January 2017. When there are 10.55 million more smartphones per user than there are employees in the UK, it becomes clear how and why the smartphone has changed our day-to-day working practices — but is it for better or for worse?

7 out of 10 18 to 24 year olds regularly check their phones in the middle of the night, research has suggested. This post-digital generation are likely to shape the way smartphones are incorporated into working practices in the future.

We establish just how it might be better to let new generations of employees use their smartphone at work – with the help of United Carlton – providers of photocopier solutions for the North East, we find out whether it really is the case that using a smartphone in unproductive, insecure and inefficient when at work.

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Employer perspective: mobile phones and social media

There are a number of people who own a smartphone – and those include people between 18-24 (the post-digital age range), and the use of mobile phones in the workplace isn’t positive. This is down to the fact that most employers simply view the smartphone as a distraction that reduces an employee’s ability to complete a task by up to 20 minutes at a time.

Many employers also feel as though they cannot draft workplace policy around mobile phone usage: ‘worried staff will spit the dummy at a mobile phone policy’. However, to counteract this, they suggested that employers ‘should simply show them the math and staff are likely to co-operate because they don’t want to see the company go under or lose their job.’

Although, if the average smartphone user spends around 90 minutes per day on their smartphone, this doesn’t seem like a logical argument when younger generations consider the smartphone to be an important part of how they communicate.

The University of Surrey has suggested that 11% of employees suggested it was unacceptable for a mobile phone to be active during a meeting; furthermore, another 80% claimed it was inappropriate to read or send text messages when in the company of colleagues or their boss. Although, this may be because employees and employers alike are preoccupied in working practices that discourage the use of smartphones, and don’t yet realise the productivity benefits that a younger generation of smartphone users can accrue for business.

Smart technologies and their impact on productivity

When bringing their own smart device to work – whilst employers are willing to adopt a BYOD culture, this could help to save employers time and boost productivity. When employees are connected to a wireless internet network, they are able to complete tasks in ways that do not limit them to sitting at a desk or having to be in the office.

Based on research by the Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group, it was claimed that ‘the average BYOD user across countries saves 37 minutes per week thanks to using their own device.’ This is because these users are working on the go and between ‘dead-times’ in the office when they aren’t stationed at a computer.

By using smart technologies, workers in Germany saved four minutes per week, and those in America saved a staggering 81 minutes per week. Contrary to popular belief, this suggests that globally, smart devices can aid rather than detract from productivity saving efficiencies. Furthermore, if smart device users are able to implement their own technologies into their working practices, then they are more likely to take work home with them – as these employees are working an extra two hours every day and sending 20 more emails every day.

When there is a compatible printer in range, connected to a network – users can print from their device without having to install any softwares, making smartphones more important in the workplace. This frees up time during the day as users can print from anywhere in the office, without having to be stationed at their desk and printing from a desktop computer. Cloud storage and printing documents that aren’t saved to hardware are also freeing up the flexibility of working practices and allowing employees to work in ways that weren’t previously possible.

Many employers are ruling out the idea of a BYOD culture within their offices before they have trailled one. If companies were willing to incorporate a BYOD culture, then they may see what some research validates as being a 16% boost in productivity over a 40-hour week, a 23% rise in job satisfaction and a 21% rise in company loyalty. If businesses aren’t willing to incorporate change into outdated processes, then perhaps these operational efficiencies may not be experienced by many for years to come.

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