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BYOD is no longer a grass roots movement. Assuming Mayan apocalypse theories don't come to pass, we should all be prepared for the consumerisation of IT to grow significantly over the next 12 months. After all, 2012 has seen a surge of mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and ultrabooks into the marketplace, and this has been mirrored by mounting pressure from people who want to use their favourite gadgets at work as well as home. However, what you might not have realised is that consumerisation means more than people bringing their own device to work. If they don't already, people will soon be expecting any device to work on any platform, anywhere. It's not quite a revolution, but it will require a fundamental change in perception.
That change in perception is not about technologies and platforms. It's a change in how we look at our own lives - and how employers can change their attitudes to working hours and practices. Once, we saw our work and personal lives as two very distinct segments of the day. Now, those two parts of our lives are becoming increasingly intertwined. People are working more flexible hours, some are combining personal and business trips and many are just no longer shackled to a desk from 9 until 5. However, in order to establish equilibrium between work and play, the transition needs to be seamless.
Arguably, we should be talking about work-life harmony, not work-life balance. We need to be able to move effortlessly between work mode and play mode, whatever device we're on, or wherever we are in the world. After all, what good is invention if it doesn't improve our lives?
Technology has become so intuitive to use and so closely linked, via social media, to lifestyle preferences, that people are instinctively using it to lifeslice; to merge work and play by moving smoothly from one to the other and back many times a day. They are, for instance, creating corporate budgets on the sidelines of their son's school rugby matches, checking design blueprints in the garden, and collaborating from a coffee shop with colleagues on the other side of the world. In my case, I can be literally in two places at once through technology - helping me achieve maximum productivity both at work and at home.
The problem is that employers in Europe are still clinging to a desire for workers to be present in the office, because it's the way they believe they can measure the work for which they're paying. In other words, organisations are insisting on paying for employee time as a commodity rather than placing a realistic value on employee intellectual capital, capacity for innovation, and ability to maintain a competitive edge.
Achieving work-life harmony is perfectly possible. The technology is there and employees are willing. However, a sea change is needed if we are going to be able to realise the potential. That means employers accepting that workers can be just as, if not more, productive on an iPad in a café - as they can be by sitting at a desk from nine to five. With that acceptance will come a change in the way we work forever.
James Stevenson, area vice president for Citrix UK, Ireland and South Africa
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