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Preparing for the imminent
Ambarish Deshpande (Managing Director – India Sales, Blue Coat Systems) talks about the much-needed flexibility at work, checks and balances, and what the future employee will miss
Issue Date - 01/07/2012
Q. What are the current trends that predict the needs of the future employee?
A. From the perspective of an IT enterprise, it is a very controlled environment – most of the times organisations define a standard platform as to the kind of devices that employees can use. Here, security and manageability are prime concerns of organisations.

As we move into a new age we see that there are multiple devices that are being utilised by employees at work and that the usage of such devices has undergone an evolution from desktops to laptops to notebooks and smartphones today. From a closed environment the evolution has taken us to a new phase where people are looking to using multiple devices and expect their companies to provide them access from anywhere on any of the devices that they use.

Q. This phase is making the concept of BYOD (bring your own device) much popular amongst employees. But how risky is it to let personal devices be integrated into the business network? How should organisations act to ensure it is not misused by employees?
A. There are two points about BYOD that are being currently discussed or debated on:
1. Is it because of the financial cost that the employees want to bring in their own device, or is it because of the social factor, more on the perspective what the employees are looking at or what is their reason for bringing their own device.
2. Do they want to carry a lighter laptop or are they capable of buying a notepad and using it at office?

These are critical factors today. While organisations are looking towards granting flexibility to employees, it brings in a lot of challenges. The companies are controlling the access by allowing specific websites to be browsed and the operating systems and applications that can be used in the organisation. But they cannot possibly control those on devices like smartphones owned by employees. Hence, there is risk involved that sensitive data can be leaked.

If the devices are owned by organisations, they are taken back when the employee leaves the company. But in case of a personal device there is no check on the kind of data that are there and cannot be accounted for. The other challenge arises if the device gets stolen and the data in it is left unguarded. There is a high possibility of the company’s data getting leaked, if that fall in the wrong hands.

Remotely an organisation today has the capability of deleting the data that are on such a device. There are technologies available today and IT organisations are gearing up in a big way.

Blue Coat has already started investing in such technologies which will give flexibility to its employees. The three factors important from an organisation’s perspective are:
Visibility: knowing what official data are available on the device.
Control: If the employee leaves the organisation or if the device gets stolen, the organisation should be able to remotely retrieve the data.
Security: data need to be protected, irrespective of who the device belongs to.

Q. How will the workplace and workforce changes in future reshape the structure of employee benefits?
A. The biggest advantage is flexibility to work from anywhere, on any device and have access 24/7.

Today, there are a lot of challenges, one of which is the rising office cost. If an organisation allows its employees to operate from home or have choice of workspace, it helps reduce the office cost, and simultaneously increases productivity.

Once the office costs get greatly reduced, the organisation can well spend that money on increasing the pay packages. This is also beneficial for employees in the current scenario where families are usually nuclear and someone has to stay home and take care of the family.

Q. Can there be pitfalls of allowing too much freedom? What measures should organisations take to avoid those?
A. A major pitfall would be from the point of security and manageability. With a number of applications being on one device, managing all of them will pose a serious challenge for companies. Also, with the working environment being no longer closed – as it used to be a few years ago – organisations have to be careful in terms of the data that are sensitive.

Another challenge for organisations might be in terms of bonding between employees. There are certain reasons why organisations have offices and a large staff. The activities and bond that people share at the workplace add to the motivation to perform. The social bonding that we have at organisations today may take a backseat when we will have such disjointed individuals in the future with the virtual office becoming functional.

Q. What strategies will be needed by organisations of tomorrow to attract and retain employees?
A. There are going to be different strategies depending upon which industry one works for or what kind of work one does. For example, in a government office or an educational institute there is need to be physically present for functioning. On the contrary, travel agents can operate from anywhere. There will be situations that will differ from organisation to organisation. Mostly, people will prefer virtual offices because that will give them flexibility to work. The hybrid model of having a virtual office and a physical office is always going to be there.

In a virtual office, it might work wonders if employers are willing to subsidise some cost or flexibility in the working hours. It is important to note that these are factors that an employee in the virtual office would be looking forward to.

Q. What will be the most sought-after attribute in potential employees for the future office?
A. First, the potential employee needs to be a mature person who understands the benefit of flexibility. Once an organisation allows flexibility at the workplace, it is going to look for commitment from employees that they are reachable or accessible whenever it is required.

Many times it can be misused because you do not have to come to office at certain timeframes or sign a register. So it is important to have mature employees who are committed to their organisation.

Q. How will employer-employee relationship undergo a change?
A. Today when you are meeting your colleagues and employers physically, there are certain things that you share in common. Employees in the virtual office are going to miss out on interactions, especially over office lunch and get-togethers. Connectivity at frequent intervals is going to be critical, especially for managers. The organisations will have to ensure it is there to support whenever the employee needs guidance. These issues are going to be a major challenge in a virtual office.
Sanghamitra Khan           

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