Monday, July 20, 2015

Banning mobiles at work in the age of BYOD and Digital

Enterprise X has banned employees across all its group companies from using mobile phones in office. On July 30, it was extended to offices of all group companies, including …. The thinking behind the move, according to an employee who did not want to be identified, is that "people tend to misuse social networking sites inside office. Popular chat applications, while used for official purposes can also be used to chat with friends and family. So the management is trying to curb the unwanted use of these platforms during work hours”.

One step forward, two steps backward, or did I get it wrong, two steps forward, one step backward ! Either way it does not matter, reality for the hapless employees of Enterprise X is that one of their primary sources of collaboration and customer insights is no longer available to them. Everyone is bewildered; what was the trigger that caused it ? Did employees protest ? Did they voice their anguish to the Management ? Did the quality of work improve after the draconian law was passed ? Did output actually go up ?

On the same page of the publication was another report: “No one really doubts the importance of digital transformation to today's businesses. Our global survey found that few can deny the mounting internal and external pressure to do more than pay lip service to digital. Yet, digital adoption is not achieved without changing the behavior of the business. Management must be convinced of the business case, a thorough implementation plan must be in place, and enterprises must alter and revamp internal processes, technology, and staff to make the digital transformation”.

The founders had held on to control despite the next generation driving the business; the younger inheritors were adept at technology and current with the times however unable to challenge the occasional unilateral and irrational directions the company took. Were the business interests of Enterprise X immune to Digital disruption ? The answer is a vehement no; in fact they had led digital innovation from the front. Then something changed and they started lagging behind competition with the margin increasing with time.

Discussions on clamp down on social media and mobile enablement are in the past. Digital aspirations of enterprises changed the dialogue, while benefits from mobile computing driven by consumerization of smartphone, created new opportunities for information dissemination and customer engagement. Better telecom networks also enable geographically dispersed workers to stay logically connected thus improving collaboration and productivity. In such an environment the concentration camp mentality raises curiosity to get to root cause.

Reading the report verbatim the purported trigger was work hours being utilized for personal interest; it raises an interesting question on the dividing line between what are defined work and personal hours. For most work hours extend beyond the time spent in the place of work; laptops changed the paradigm two decades back, the smartphone redefined it a little later. Globalization of enterprises extended work hours beyond the conventional 9 X 5; whatever limited time that was remaining disappeared in the economic troughs.

Is Enterprise X giving a message that staff needs to clearly demarcate work and life hours ? Are they saying don’t indulge in any activity that can be construed as personal at workplace and similarly when they step out of the hallowed premises they shall not be expected to cast a cursory glance at the official email ? Or for that matter if the workload increases, the employees will not be expected to spend extra hours to complete tasks at hand ! An internal circular demanded people to deposit phones on the way in and take them when leaving the premises. OMG !

Everyone would nod their heads to the fact that attention span of the new generation has significantly reduced. Messages and notification craving have people checking their smartphones with increasing frequency; distractions apart, reality is that everyone is also connected to the enterprise 24 X 7 with rigor and passion unknown in the past. Weekends and vacations have laptops, tablets and smartphones as constant companions seeking wireless networks. With the work and life disconnected it’s anybody’s guess if withdrawal symptoms will emerge post working hours.

Maybe Enterprise X is path breaking with this new policy; only time will tell …

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