Dell and Intel Study Uncovers Truth Behind Technology and the Workforce

December 03, 2014
By: Peter Bernstein

Back in 2011, Dell (News - Alert) wanted to know about how technology was impacting the evolving workplace and vice versa. Fast forward, Dell and partner Intel decided that it was time for another look. First to see how far we may or may not have come and second to see what the road ahead might look like. The results have been published and confirm many observations regarding how much and how fast perceptions as well as realities are changing as well as revealed a few surprises.

Dell and Intel commissioned research firm TNS (News - Alert) to conduct this version of the Global Evolving Workforce Study. It  included survey responses from 4,764 full-time employees of small, medium and large-sized organizations distributed across 12 countries, and six private industries (financial services, manufacturing, retail, media & entertainment, healthcare, and education) and three public industries (government, healthcare and education).  As part of the exercise industry experts and analysts in human resources, technology, and organization psychologists were also interviewed for their insight on the findings.

The context for the survey was explained by Steve Lalla, vice president and general manager of Cloud Client Computing, Dell who noted:  "As the key provider of mobile technology, its critical to keep a pulse on the changing landscape so we can continue to provide the right solutions and services for the evolving workforce…And as the research shows, now more than ever, the "office" isn’t defined by a desk within an employer’s walls. With constant connectivity blurring the lines between professional and personal lives and devices, it’s essential employees have seamless access to data when at the office, at home and on the road so they can stay productive, and IT secures and manages the data and user wherever it goes."

Lalla added in discussing the results with me that the old observation that “wherever I am is where you will find me” has never been more true or more important, particularly to important subjects like the blurring of personal and professional and views on the advantages and disadvantages of working remotely.  In fact, he noted that, “The goal needs to be to provide us all the tools we need in our professional and personal lives, everywhere, every time, all the time and the way in which we prefer to view and use them.”

Dell Global Evolving Workforce Study Trend Highlights

As readers will see by clicking on the link above, there are actually two perspectives that are available for review.  The first focuses on user perceptions while the second is the views of the subject matter experts. They both contain extensive information and insights, including breakdowns by country and sectors which illustrate some fascinating differences in attitudes and the impact of technology in the workplace, and are equally worth reading.

As a tickler to encourage you to download the research the below graphic is an example of an insight you probably were not aware of but is certainly food for thought. It is in regards to what users are looking for in selecting a device for work. 

Source (News - Alert):  Dell/Intel 2014 Global Evolving Workforce Study.

The “desktop” versus “all others” in the above refers to workers whose primary work networked computing platform remains a traditional desktop versus those who do not use it as their primary workstation. Interestingly, the study found that IT managed and controlled desktops remain the place where the majority of workers perform their work despite inroads of laptops, tablets and smartphones. However, as the look into the future indicates, whether it be using voice recognition more, touch and gestures, users and experts agree the times are changing. The caveat is not as quickly as one might assume given all of the hype.

Below are the researchers’ summary of the key trends that emerged from the surveys and interviews which centered on where and how employees work, the impact technology has on personal and work lives, and predictions around the automation of technology in the future.

Location of work also has an impact on the devices used. Sixty-two percent of employees consider the desktop PC as their primary business device while at work, with the highest use in financial services, public healthcare and government, but when doing work at home, laptops are used as frequently as desktops. For personal purposes, employees are switching to more mobile forms of technology where laptop, tablet and 2-in-1 usage is higher than when working in the office.

Of those who spend any time working from home, half believe they are more productive there than in the office. Of the remaining 50 percent, 36 percent believe they are equally as productive at home as in the office, and only 14 percent say less productive. There are clear benefits of working from home; 30 percent sleep more, 40 percent drive less and 46 percent of employees feel less stress, but not everything about working from home is good. There are distractions from spouses, children, parents and pets in the home and 20 percent of employees indicate exercising less when working from home, with 38 percent indicate snacking more.

Executives blur the lines between "work" and "personal" more than other employees. They indicate they use personal technology for work more frequently than other employees (64 percent vs. 37 percent), take work technology home for personal purposes (45 percent vs. 20 percent) and access personal websites/apps/software at work (67 percent vs. 49 percent).

More than half of employees globally currently use personal devices for work purposes or expect to do so in the future, while 43 percent of employees globally are secretly using personal devices for work without the company knowing, with smartphones and laptops being those most frequently used.

"The challenge many IT departments face is how to manage and secure the increasing number of devices coming in and out of an organization. Smartphones, in particular, have been the primary device behind the BYOD model," said Bob O’Donnell, founder and chief analyst TECHnalysis Research. "That's forcing many organizations to rethink the way they manage devices, especially ones not purchased or completely accessible by IT."

The study is not just about numbers and perceptions, there is also some advice contained for business leaders, IT managers and human resource professionals to focus on to better understand their employees’ diverse needs and provide the right environments and technology to enable them to do their best work.

As Lalla explained, the big take away from this is that: “At the end of the day the industry needs to look at the difference between delivering desktops versus delivering apps and services that can be consumed by everything in a compelling manner based on the device of preference. One size fits all does not work, and your apps and data need to be device agnostic so you always have precisely what you need when you need it, securely and in an easy-to-use manner.”

He also pointed to the continued applicability of the desktop as a tool for getting work done, and agreed that like most revolutions this one is happening in an evolutionary manner, as can be seen in the gradual shifts in perceptions for instance about whether working remotely much of the time is a plus or minus. 

The really big surprise in reading the materials and speaking with Lalla was the belief by users and experts that while technology is going to continue to try and put the right people in the right place at the right time with the right tools, taking a longer view the actual impact on the nature of work everyone seems to agree the changes will be incremental over the next decade. We seem to understand we are inexorably moving to an always on/all ways connected, increasing distributed workplace. However, we also know from how that almost always/all ways world currently works, that the barriers as to work and personal are already broken, those of us who are knowledge workers are used to collaboration on virtual teams with globally dispersed participants, and are constantly fine-tuning the apps we use to improve our productivity at work and enjoyability when not working. 

One final thought is that while in 2011 technology was viewed as important for attracting and keeping workers, today the expectation of the digitally adept is that their employers will stay current on the technology front since to not do so carries consequences. Let’s hope Dell and Intel (News - Alert) make this an annual affair. After all, the speed at which technology is disrupting markets is accelerating and those numbers could change markedly in just a few months.