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Optus ‘Future of Work’ Report reveals mobile and collaborative technologies will mobilise Australia’s workforce
  • Study shows the future of work is mobile, flexible and collaborative by 2014 - 2016
  • IT and HR engagement critical to realise this vision

The future of work in Australia by 2014 - 2016 is flexible, collaborative and mobile according to the Optus Business 'Future of Work' report released today. The study found Australian businesses expect rapid growth of smartphones, tablets and mobile applications in the workplace in the next three to five years, which will mobilise their workforce and increase flexibility and productivity.

The report, which surveyed IT and HR decision makers from over 320 medium to large organisations*, also shows greater use of collaboration tools, fast uptake of social media and a growing demand by workers to use personal devices at work. This is putting pressure on IT and HR departments to work closer together to enable a secure and productive flexible working environment.

"Our report found that the widespread adoption of mobile technologies, increased use of internal collaboration tools, and greater employee access to social media is changing how we work and creating more workplace flexibility and productivity. Gen-X (30 - 50 year olds) in particular are driving the demand for mobile tools that enable flexible working, while younger Gen-Y workers (up to 29 years old) are driving demand for internal collaboration tools. More organisations will also allow staff to use personal devices such as tablets to access their corporate network, reinforcing the need for new policies to ensure security requirements are met," said Rob Parcell, Managing Director at Optus Business.

"The delivery of future flexible working will rely on IT and HR departments working more closely together. IT departments need to educate their organisations on the tools available to support flexible working, while HR departments need to consult their IT teams on tools to support flexible working."

Key Report Findings:

  • Smartphones set to permeate the workplace: IT respondents expect the deployment of smartphones in businesses to rise and proliferate beyond the executive suite, with more businesses planning to deploy them to sales teams (from 43 per cent to 56 per cent) and field force teams (from 30 per cent to 54 per cent) within three to five years.
  • Tablet growth to rocket: IT departments expect to increase the deployment of tablets to employees from 37 per cent to 84 per cent over the next three to five years. Of these, 35 per cent expect to issue tablets to sales teams in the future, up from 4 per cent now, and field force teams 39 per cent up from 9 per cent today.
  • Mobile Device Management solutions to be deployed: According to the report, Australian businesses currently depend on employee goodwill for the return of company-issued mobile devices (70 per cent), but businesses plan to adopt a more rigorous approach. The use of remote data wipe and lockout technologies is expected to rise from 40 per cent to 61 per cent in the next three to five years.
  • BYO personal devices permitted to access the corporate network: An increasing number of organisations are prepared to allow staff to use personal devices to access the corporate network. In three to five years, 56 per cent of IT departments surveyed will allow employees personal smartphones to access the corporate network (up from 49 per cent today) and 55 per cent will allow access from employees personal tablets (up from 23 per cent today). Generation Y workers are driving this demand (45 per cent), but this benefit also appeals to older workers (Gen-X 43 per cent).
  • Mobile applications deployed in the enterprise: A broader range of applications on mobiles, smartphones and tablets are expected to be deployed over the next few years. Organisations expect to make collaboration (51 per cent), customer relationship management (45 per cent) and enterprise applications (47 per cent) available to these devices in the next three to five years.
  • Use of Internal collaboration tools to become more widespread: Internal collaboration tools, particularly real-time tools such as enterprise-wide instant messaging, presence and internal 'Twitter-style' applications will increase in use over the next three to five years. 53 per cent of IT respondents expect such collaboration tools to consume a larger share of their budget in three to five years. By deploying these tools, companies can make more informed decisions with faster input from more people. Younger workers are driving demand for internal collaboration tools with 40 per cent of Gen-Y workers wanting their employers to enable internal social media platforms, compared with 23 per cent of Gen-X.
  • Greater social media access: Over one-quarter (26 per cent) of IT functions currently permit but monitor employees' social media access, and this proportion is poised to grow to about one-half (49 per cent) over the next three to five years. Additionally, around one-third (30 per cent) of HR teams surveyed believe allowing social media access from the workplace or company-issued devices would have major importance or be essential to recruiting and retaining staff over the next three to five years.
  • Cloud computing to increase in importance: IT respondents said they expect data centre consolidation to remain important, but believe cloud computing will grow in importance. Infrastructure as a service is set to grow from 12 per cent to 40 per cent, and software as a service is expected to grow from 21 to 41 per cent over the next three to five years.

Calls for closer collaboration between IT and HR to deliver a flexible workplace

The report found that the two departments responsible for enabling flexible working - IT and HR - are disconnected and have different views about how much flexible working is currently enabled in the workplace. It suggests there is a discord between the policies being developed by HR teams and implemented by IT.

IT respondents believe only 9 per cent of employees currently have complete flexible working conditions, compared to HR respondents who believe 21 per cent do. IT respondents believe the biggest change in flexible working will be the rise in employees working from different remote locations (of the employee's choice), expecting an increase from 27 per cent to 42 per cent. However, HR respondents believe it will change from 21 per cent to 35 per cent.

"If HR and IT departments don't collaborate better, the move to more flexible working environments could be hampered. There are a number of steps businesses can consider taking to help the transition to more efficient, flexible workplaces. For example, the heads of IT and HR can meet regularly to understand key priorities and identify opportunities to work more closely together. IT and HR can also be encouraged to use new workplace collaboration tools to make collective decisions about future workplace policies and technologies," said Mr Parcell.

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Media contacts:
For a full copy of the Optus 'Future of Work' report, please contact:
Kasia Ciszak/James Wright
Optus Corporate Affairs
Tel: (02) 8082 7850

Simon Fitzgerald / Rachel Vidaic
Text 100 Public Relations
Tel: 02 9956 5733
E: sydneyoptusteam@text100.com.au

*About the Optus Future of Work Report: Optus engaged Stancombe Research and Planning to analyse how the workplace would change over the next three to five years. The researchers conducted an online survey of IT and HR decision-makers across medium-sized to large businesses and government organisations. They completed interviews with 326 respondents between 25 April and 11 May 2011.Stancombe Research and Planning also conducted in-depth qualitative interviews with a smaller number of respondents across multiple industries. Respondents in both surveys were not informed that they were being asked questions on behalf of Optus. The final results were weighted to reflect the industry makeup of the broader Australian market.