Flexible IT the key to employee satisfaction and teamwork, survey reveals

Maintaining a sophisticated workplace IT infrastructure is crucial to holding on to current staff, winning new, talented employees and keeping them happy, a report published today by Deloitte Access Economics and Google reveals.

But employee happiness isn’t the only benefit – the survey found small businesses could save $22,000 a year in hiring costs by implementing flexible IT systems.

The survey echoes similar calls from IT experts who say more SMEs need to experiment with workplace flexibility and allowing employees to work from home.

Of those surveyed, 83% of employees with access to flexible IT policies said they’re satisfied at work, compared to 62% who didn’t.

But John O’Mahony, associate director of Deloitte Access Economics, told SmartCompany this morning the most important finding was that a “significant number” of employees rated their home technology as more user-friendly, faster and up-to-date than what they use at work.

“I don’t have a survey from the mid-1990s, but I’m sure if you asked people in the past to compare their home and work technology, they’d say it was the opposite, that work tech was better than home tech.

“But now people are raising their expectations for what they want. When they get to work, they’re taking a step back and that’s creating frustration, or disappointment.”

“That’s why businesses have to offer better technology at work.”

The survey, which questioned 526 employees from Australia and New Zealand, goes far beyond simply recommending businesses offer a pleasing technology environment at work. Commissioned by Google Australia – which is a provider of flexible IT products – the report has found flexible IT practices play a huge part in employee satisfaction and retention.

The survey found employees were more satisfied with IT programs that allowed people to bring their own devices to work, permitted access to social media at work, and let them work from home.

These satisfied employees also reported they had higher levels of collaboration, working together 28% of the week, as opposed to just 12% for those non-satisfied employees.

O’Mahony says it’s obvious more satisfied employees are less likely to leave, but notes many companies don’t actually make the connection that better IT policies can create a more satisfactory work environment.

And while most companies would balk at giving employees access to social media, or free-range internet usage, the survey notes employees with flexible IT practices end up offsetting the time used for personal access at work, with work-related access at home.

In fact, it ends up being roughly the same amount – 1:12 hours.

“Whether or not this blurring of boundaries is a positive for businesses and employees is unclear,” the report states.

“There are business benefits from being able to tap into employees outside of official business hours just as there are benefits to individuals of being able to undertake personal errands during business hours.”

O’Mahony says businesses need to better align their workplace IT infrastructure with employees’ home-based tech – which is so far beyond their workplace computers that it can provide a solid base for working from home anyway.

“People want to work how they live,” he says.

“It’s not just that people have a good device at home, and at work. People are expecting that working isn’t just going to be at a desk with an average computer. There needs to be generally more flexibility within the company’s IT as a whole.”

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