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Technology / AI and automation

UK businesses lead the way in secure flexible working

The survey of senior executives and managers – in more than 1,250 small businesses across Europe, North America and Australia – found that UK small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are leading the way in ensuring staff work securely in the BYOD era, with 34% putting in place controls 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 USA.

The need for dedicated security strategy was underlined by the fact that employees in as many as 47% of UK SMEs are already using their personal devices for work. This is further emphasised by 55% of senior directors and managers relying more on smart phones than their PCs (54%) and laptops (52%).

Robert Gratzl, managing director, VP and GM EMEA, online services division at Citrix, commented: "In encouraging mobile, flexible working, it’s good to see the UK taking the lead in putting security policies in place.

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"They are rightly anxious about their firms’ potential exposure, with 26% particularly worried about allowing remote access to the network and 29% concerned about permitting document downloads.

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

A quarter of SMEs said they are under more pressure to introduce or increase mobile, flexible working practices. This figure is significantly higher than two years ago (21%), but still lower than the global average (35%).

In other findings:

  • Globally, employees represent the greatest source of pressure for change, well ahead of external drivers such as competitors, regulation or the environment.
  • Departmentally, management (30%) and sales (26%) are pushing hardest to use their own personal communications devices for business purposes, although 42% of firms confirm they are under pressure from all parts of the organisation.
  • 42% of SMEs believe the most important reason for enabling the use of personal devices in the workplace is that using a single device for all purposes makes employees’ lives easier. This compares to 21% who point to the greater functionality of consumer-focused devices and just 13% to their greater flexibility.

Gratzl said: "The move to a more mobile workplace, or ‘work shifting’, is being encouraged at all levels of the business.

"As the lines blur between people’s work and social lives, it’s no surprise that businesses and employees alike are looking to introduce tools which enable the adoption of this more flexible approach, without compromising business efficiency."

More than half (57%) of SMEs introducing flexible working practices are now achieving productivity gains of more than 5% as a result of adopting personal devices and consumer-focused tools in the workplace. This represents a significant improvement over 2011, when only 43% secured a similar level of efficient improvement.

Reinforcing this positive trend, the number of firms seeing no measurable benefit has halved over the same period, down from 27% to just 14%.

Gratzl added: "These results provide evidence of the tangible value of flexible working in improving business effectiveness. SMEs are increasingly investing in technologies to support this – with 32% now providing smartphones to their staff compared to only 19% two years ago – as they recognise the benefits of enabling staff to ‘work anywhere, with anyone’ equally effectively."

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

  • Almost half (47%) of firms spend more than two hours a week in meetings, compared to 43% across all countries surveyed. 21% spend more time in meetings now than they did five years ago.
  • 46% already use video conferencing at work, with 67% 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.
  • 36% (rising to 41% across all countries) experience a drop in productivity over the summer months, between May and September.

Clive Longbottom, industry analyst at Quocirca, noted: "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 nip any problems in the bud and return to their break, benefitting them and their employer."

SMEs 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 13% to 18%).

Gratzl said: "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.

"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."
This article is from the CBROnline archive: some formatting and images may not be present.