Workshifting gaining popularity among Asia Pacific companies

WORK FROM ANYWHERE: Most companies in Asia Pacific are in favour of workshifting, i.e. having their employees work from anywhere they’re most comfortable in, be it the home, coffeeshop or park bench.

PETALING JAYA: Most companies in Asia Pacific are in favour of workshifting, i.e. having their employees work from anywhere they’re most comfortable in, be it the home, coffeeshop or park bench.

Yaj Malik, vice-president for Asean at Citrix Systems Singapore Pte Ltd, said that according to its studies, 93% of Asean companies support workshifting.

The vendor provides server and desktop virtualisation, networking, software-as-a-service, and cloud computing technologies.

“Moving towards cloud computing and into a workshifting culture is not just desirable but inevitable,” he said. “Work isn’t a place. To have to go into the office to work is so ... last generation.”

Allowing employees to be able to work away from the office has numerous advantages. For one thing, companies would save money on office space and utility bills, while workers would save time and money if they didn’t need to commute to and from the office daily.

This flexibility to choose where to work also has the side benefit of encouraging employees to stick with their company, Yaj said, especially if other companies do not encourage workshifting.

Citrix has been practising workshifting and a “bring your own device” programme for years now, where workers are given a sum of money to purchase any device they want and are free to install anything they want, while still having secure access to the company network and apps through virtualisation.

Decentralising the workforce also makes good business sense in some cases; for example, when massive floods hit Queensland, Australia, in 2010, it wiped out many company premises, including insurance company offices.

During that disaster, only one insurance company — Suncorp Insurance — had made the move to cloud computing, so it was one of the few insurance companies that could still respond to the massive number of customer calls.

According to Yaj, the move is happening right now, with 70 of the Fortune 100 companies having already moved to cloud-based workshifting.

On the home front, Citrix has some 650 customers in Malaysia practising workshifting, including Mydin Mohamed Holdings Bhd, MISC Bhd and UOB Malaysia.

Work in the cloud

To embrace workshifting, there has to be a fundamental change in how employees are able to get access to the company network and related software.

In some companies today — because of security fears and the need for a security blanket comprising a tightly controlled IT environment — a central server is set up where only employees with strictly monitored, company-issued notebooks are given remote access.

These company-issued notebooks are so controlled that an employee can only install applications that are approved by the company, which usually means that the employee has to carry both a personal and a company device for different usage scenarios.

Furthermore, if an employee wants permission to use his or her own iPad/Android smartphone or any other device, especially those with a number of personal apps loaded, this is almost always denied in such companies.

Yaj said the situation is changing. The increasing use of tablets and smartphones by people is driving companies from the tightly-managed, central-server-and-company-notebook system to the less-restrictive cloud-based, bring-your-own-device system.

Instead of having a tightly-managed notebook computer, the employee can instead download a secure client, like the Citrix Receiver which is available for almost any platform, to access his or her company network and related applications through virtualisation.

Citrix has a host of services and applications that support remote but secure work environments, according to Yaj.

“It’s not about technology anymore — all the technology the companies need is already here. The real issue is to convince the companies to embrace workshifting and this can best be done from the top down,” he said.

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