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Welcome to Workshifting

Sunday, October 16, 2011
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Are you reading this column right now in a location other than at your work desk?

If you replied yes, then the chances are good that you -- like millions of others -- are currently engaging in the thoroughly modern practice of workshifting.

What's workshifting, you may ask?

It's the ability to "work where and when you want to," according to a new report entitled the iPass Global Mobile Workforce Report by Redwood Shores, Calif.-based mobility-services provider iPass.

The report is based on information obtained in July from more than 3,100 responses to a survey of mobile workers at more than 1,100 organizations worldwide.

Carol Montgomery Adams, vice president of corporate marketing at iPass, says industry advances (such as smartphones, increased Wi-Fi access and more flexible-work-arrangement options) have made workshifting the expectation of nearly all business employees.

"Although 95 percent [of those surveyed] stated their employers encouraged or tolerated workshifting, 40 percent said they would like to have an even more flexible work environment," she says.

The survey results highlight some of the many positive effects an organization may reap when breaking down the bricks-and-mortar walls of work: 75 percent of respondents said they worked more hours because of the increased flexibility in when -- and where -- they could work, 64 percent said they felt they were better able to balance their work load with personal commitments and 54 percent said they felt their productivity was substantially improved as a result of workshifting.

The report also finds employees who are able to workshift put in about 240 hours more than their deskbound colleagues each year, according to Adams.

"The research is just starting to catch up with what most HR executives already know: Happy employees are effective employees," she says, "and policies that tolerate or encourage workshifting are a must at any enterprise where there is a large base of white-collar professionals."

Greg Kuczaj, a senior consultant at Towers Watson, says he wasn't surprised by the report's findings, as they "correlated nicely" with the results of a talent-and-rewards survey his firm recently conducted.

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"Allowing your workforce to choose when and where they work creates more engagement, resulting in increases in productivity, efficiency and better stress management," he says.

But there is a downside to this new trend, the iPass report finds.

"Workshifting has now become a part of the expectation of nearly all white-collar employees," its conclusion states.

"And if these workers don't get the freedom they feel they are entitled to," it says, "they will seek out those companies that do allow them the freedom to work when, where and how they choose."

Kuczaj adds that organizations that resist the workshifting trend do so at their own peril.

"This is an opportunity to provide a benefit to the workforce that costs the organization nearly nothing," he says. "Finding benefits that can lead to better results without taking away from the bottom line are hard to come by."

Michael O'Brien can be reached at mobrien@lrp.com.

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