“Working nine to five” is a notion from a bygone era. As of this year, about 34 percent of workers in the United States are part of the freelance gig economy. Add to that the fact that employees increasingly work remotely—61 percent of Americans nearly exclusively using their smartphones to check email—and it is clear location is a non-issue. Additionally, the question of whether productivity increases with time input is at the forefront. The Millennial and Gen Z crowd—who rank flexibility as one of their top three priorities behind salary—is growing and thriving in the marketplace. They are bringing a tide of change: the agile, mobile-centered work culture. Technology has answered this demand with evolving tools that make mobility more appealing than ever, for employers as well as employees, causing a major shift away from the traditional central office setting. Let’s look at how mobility is crucial to how businesses work and what enterprise mobility management looks like moving into the future.

The Mobility Iceberg

From its beginnings in the tablet market, which Gartner famously predicted as “the tip of the mobility iceberg,” mobile has only increased its presence in our lives and in the workforce. We check email on our tablets while on the go. We access social media on our phones constantly. Businesses around the world are creating custom mobile applications to suit the collaboration needs of a highly mobile workforce. With that shift comes incredible freedom, including the flexibility to work remotely. It also brings up important security considerations—after all, hopping on public Wi-Fi using company devices isn’t necessarily safe, but it’s a relatively common practice for employees working remotely.

BYOD and Cloud Security

We have become so used to operating on mobile. Our technology really is an extension of ourselves: it holds our photos, text conversations, and lifestyle apps. It takes care of banking needs, shopping needs, and gets us from Point A to Point B. It should be no surprise, then, that the lines are often blurred when it comes to separating personal use and work use of our technology. This is one of the risks we inevitably face in a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) work atmosphere. In a mobile-focused (or mobile-only) work culture, the cloud prevails as a lifeline—and when that cloud is situated within a device loaded with personal information, things can get complicated.

Enter the IT teams that are reportedly eager to continue having BYOD policies. With employees working from home and other remote locations, using their personal devices for work purposes, and using cloud solutions to collaborate with colleagues, mobile security is a major focus for IT teams. On mobile, users are accessing the cloud using applications, making traditional cloud security—armoring the back end—all but pointless. As one tech writer points out, “Now you have to have device trust and app trust, because there is now data that is local to the device.”

Other challenges IT teams are up against when it comes to BYOD policies:

  • Risk of stolen or lost devices is higher
  • Varied brands and models require IT to know how to configure many different devices
  • Difficulty in holding employees to acceptable use of personal devices for company purposes
  • Privacy concerns on the side of the employee
  • Risk for malware or virus on personal systems affecting company data
  • Susceptibility of company information to leak in the event of employee termination

On the flip side, some pros of adopting BYOD:

  • Employees are more likely to buy themselves newer devices, giving the company the same luxury
  • Employees are more comfortable and efficient when using personal devices
  • Employees are more productive and happy when using their own devices

Employee Attraction and Retention

Not only is the ability to work remotely appealing to employees because it means more autonomy and freedom—it also allows each team member to determine when and where they’re most productive. This is crucial for teams with creative needs; often, a single space cannot provide the necessary atmosphere for the kind of idea creation these employees require.

Mobile-inspired employee attraction and retention isn’t the only cause for business growth. As businesses become more agile, contract work becomes a natural need—and employees on contract often cost less than full-timers. A mobile workforce also provides diversity, a benefit to any company looking to advance and better prepare for the future.

In a world where flexibility is king, the agile, mobile workplace culture wins. In our current cultural reality and in the minds of the new majority of the work force, it is becoming more critical every day for companies to let go of formerly idealized static work spaces and centrally-controlled technology. Moving forward, whether we’re ready or not, we will see more contract workers, greater acceptance of personal-work device sharing, and a highly mobile and diversely-experienced workforce—because the future of work demands it.

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