Blog Post

By The Numbers: How The Workforce Is Changing

In a post earlier this week, I wrote about work being the killer app of the Internet, arguing that the workplace of tomorrow is not going to be bound by space and time alone, because connected-ness brings ability to build distributed workforces. In order to better understand this, Incite conduced an online study on behalf of GigaOM Pro and Skype. One of findings of the study: nearly two-thirds (62%) of companies surveyed had remote workers and over a third (34 percent) of those remote workers worked away from office — at client, customer or partner premises; at home or in public spaces. Clearly, we are in what Citrix Online President Brett Caine calls, a workshift.

The survey reached out to 1,000 technology empowered workers – 500 end users and 500 decision makers at businesses that ranged from small businesses to large corporations. As part of our Net:Work Conference coverage, we are sharing findings from the report:

The companies are adjusting to this new work reality.

  • More than half, at 57 percent, of firms allow flexible working hours, that fit with employees’ lives, rather than “standard office hours.”
  • Most employees, at 80 percent, appreciate flexible working as a means of balancing their lives.
  • Of those employees 65 percent feel a flexible working policy would be important to a future
    change of job.

The change in the workforce is bringing in new tools and processes to the work place, continuing the consumerisation of the enterprise IT.

  • In two-thirds of organizations, workers can bring their own personal technology into the workplace.
  • 41 percent can bring and use their own tools independently (without permission from their IT departments.)

This explains why the iPad (s aapl) has been such a major hit in the enterprise, much like tools like Google’s Mail and Apps. The survey revels that video and VoIP are going to be big applications going forward. It makes sense – we at GigaOM are constantly using Skype Video, Google Talk Video and Apple’s Facetime. Some interesting stats about workers who use video for work:

  • More than two-thirds at 68 percent experience richer and more productive communication with colleagues, clients and suppliers.
  • Most of those at 65 percent, say they collaborate better.
  • The majority also say they save time at 62 percent and money, at 56 percent.
  • Almost seven in ten at 69 percent want video to be available on a range of devices and locations not just fixed systems.

The change in the work patterns, however, has a detrimental impact as well.

  • A significant number of people at 42 percent agree the workplace is suffering from information overload.
  • While 35 percent of people blame email for this overload.

Related content on GigaOM Pro: (subscription required)

8 Responses to “By The Numbers: How The Workforce Is Changing”

  1. Regarding Rick’s point — we at Ambient Insight have been tracking the rise of the “blue collar geeks.” Workers in hazmat and vehicle repair/maintenance fields use handheld diagnostics and performance support mobile products such as troubleshooting content and procedural manuals.

  2. Unfortunately, my employer seems to be stuck in the 20th century. While the graphic design department gets to use macs (which are not supported in any way by the IT department), everybody else continues to use old laptops (yeah celerons) running old software (we moved up to XP and Office 2003 this year).

    Now we have a company-wide initiative to not only be measured on the quality of our work, but how it is done. I don’t think that means Six Sigma or some other business management panacea, but it does mean less reliance on employee’s flexibility.

    I do all but one weekly meeting via the phone and a variety of meeting software (NetMeeting, Cisco, MeetingPlace, etc), none of which seems to work more than 75% of the time. Our VPN is super slow so when I do work from home (which is only allowed when I am ill), I can’t do anything on the various company drives as I get “application not responding” errors or I wait 2 minutes to move a 5MB file from the network to my local laptop.

    I’m also not given the tools I need to increase productivity. I end up doing all my development at home, on my own time as I neither have a development environment at work, nor the means of testing things on anything other than company standard software. Code and file optimization also gets done at home as I have the tools there, but not in the workplace.

    For my employer the issue doesn’t seem to be profits, but rather control. And I work in a spoke and hub model. You’d think workplace flexibility would be embraced, but it is feared.

  3. Our company has functioned this way for almost 10 years. The more technology has advanced, the easier and more efficient work has become. In particular, smartphones such as the iPhone and the Androids have greatly helped. We love the lack of “looking over your shoulder and breathing down your neck” by management. We set goals and give our people the freedom to accomplish these goals in the time/work frames they deem appropriate. So far it is way cool. Most of us could simply never return to the traditional office/cubicle environment.

    PS: We would give our right arms to somehow get rid of the old-school fax machines. Please, someone develop a way to connect fax machines via smartphones. MagicJack sometimes works but is hit and miss. Unfortunately, there still exists the need to fax documents. Scanning then emailing is just too cumbersome.

  4. As a millennial, I know I will strongly emphasize a flexible work environment. If I can get the work done but done my way then why not? My father works for IBM and the company boasts a 40% mobile workforce. If they can do it, why can’t I?

  5. Love this topic. However, I think you may be wrong on the reason for iPad’s success in the enterprise. You allude to the fact that workers can now choose and bring in their own preferred tech (rather than the IT shop standard). I think it’s deeper.

    I wrote on my site yesterday that the iPad is ‘designed’ as a collaborative tool, not personal. In this emerging era of collaborative work, the iPad is a potential blockbuster in the enterprise while Android and Blackberry seem intent on making their upcoming tablets more personal.

  6. I think it is an important time to expand the dialog and analysis of the “future of work” well beyond the white collar worker.

    In fact, many “blue collar” workers in manufacturing, utilities, transportation, and healthcare deal with significantly more information and technology and on a more real-time basis than most white collar workers. Additionally, there are probably 4-5X as many of these types of workers on average (much less in some industries, more in some others).

    They often have specialized needs for mobility, collaboration, access to information, and in many cases, a higher degree of “mission criticality” than most white collar or office workers.

    I would encourage you to be at the vanguard of this discussion and expand your thinking to better represent the “real world” view of what the next generation of information workers will be.