The cloud brings freedom to workers, but also risk

People are increasingly relying on their internet-connected devices for information, both in their personal and professional life. But be aware of the dangers of this new way of working, says Ian Apperley, director of cloud consultants Isis Group.

Our consciousness is changing from real life to a blend of the real world and the digital world, he says.

“Today’s smartphone is almost the remote control of your life.”

He calls this convergence of personal and business life ‘fractilised’ working.

“It’s a move away from a nine-to-five, command and control, censored internet, fixed-location model,” he says. “And it’s moving towards an always-connected model, wherever you are, wherever your staff are, potentially using BYOD and BYOA.”

However, this shift must be very carefully managed to avoid burn-out and health issues, he says.

The younger generations have grown up with this and can manage the huge information flow. They know which pieces to remember and which to forget, he says. The rest of us have to teach our brains how to manage this fractilised style.

“Kids will look to Google as an extension of their mind through their smartphone rather than retain the information themselves. It’s quite a terrifying and at the same time interesting concept.”

On the other hand, studies have shown that if staff are given the freedom to find their own style of working, they are 10 per cent more productive, work longer, are less likely to leave and they are generally less stressed, Apperley says. But you need to recognise that not everyone will be able to operate this way. Some people prefer to sit at their desk between fixed hours, he says.

Hazel Jennings, a national councillor of the Institute of IT Professionals and founder of Dale Jennings Associates, says there is a possibility that people can get exploited and employers have to be careful about letting staff turn their phones off.

“But the biggest issue is around freedom of speech,” she says. “Things like that you have got to follow the company line even on your Facebook page. That’s much more insidious. You are not allowed to have your own opinion now.”

“We have already seen policies about not bringing the company into disrepute on your Facebook page.”

Jennings sees more individuals embracing the fractilised working style and proving that it works, rather than local organisations embracing it.

“Many Kiwi employers think if they can’t see their people they can’t believe they are working hard enough. I still think that is quite a common perception.”

If you want to move your organisation towards fractilised working, Apperley recommends introducing a policy that allows and encourages staff to utilise social media tools, such as Facebook, Twitter and blogging. Establish a social media marketing and support team, he says.

“Encourage staff to work from home at least once per fortnight to test the waters.”

And also, use smartphone “out of hours” tools to allow your staff to switch off, he says.

Nine-to-five businesses will need to change, Apperley says. In general, business models will become a blend of the real and digital world.

“Any business that is customer-facing and cannot adapt to this model will fade into irrelevance,” he says.

Ian Apperley presented at the Cloud Computing conference in Auckland last week.

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