It's time to loosen up your business IT


Date: 11 November 2011

Relaxing on the beach

Put your feet up and relax about your business IT (Image: Cristian Borquez on Flickr)

There's nothing wrong with being risk averse, and there's nothing wrong with not wanting your staff to do silly things or waste time with their company computers.

Those are the - perfectly logical reasons - why many businesses lock down their systems tightly. They want to stop employees opening the wrong kinds of files, installing dodgy software or accessing social networks.

Fine. But as someone who's fairly IT literate, I've always found locked-down PCs highly offputting. By and large, I know what I'm doing and I know what I need to do my job. I just want the IT department to let me get on with it.

Young workers want more flexibility

A recent piece of research has got me wondering whether this might be a growing sentiment. The 2011 Cisco Connected World Technology Report suggests that young workers (by which it means students and professionals under 30) take many factors into account when deciding where they want to work.

It's not all about the salary - the internet, flexibility and social networks can all make a difference. For instance:

  • More than half of students either wouldn't accept a job offer from a company that banned access to social media, or would find a way to circumvent the ban.
  • One in four employees say that not being able to work remotely and flexibly would influence their job decisions - they might leave a job sooner, for instance.
  • Two out of five people would opt for a lower paying job over a higher paying one, if it offered more flexibility over use of IT and social media, and more mobility.

The overall impression is that younger workers want more choice over what IT they use and how they use it at work.

They want more flexibility in where and when they work. And they want to be allowed to use social networks because they believe services like Facebook and Twitter are key communication tools.

Is it time to loosen up your IT?

I can almost hear the tuts from IT managers at the idea of loosening restrictions, allowing people to use their own devices and turning off web blocking software.

But here's the thing: it's happening already, whether you like it or not. If you've blocked Facebook on your work computers, your employees will just be accessing it on their phones.

Then you've got mobile devices. You might think you've banned staff using their own mobile gadgets for work. But what's to stop them loading documents onto their iPad to review on the train, or connecting a smart phone to the company Wi-Fi?

Times are changing for office IT

Times are changing. The so-called 'millennials' - the next generation of workers - have grown up using IT and computers their entire lives. We don't need to teach them how to use it at work, because they already know.

Maybe, just maybe, if we open systems up and give people more freedom to use the tools and devices they want, they'll be able to do better work.

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