An article in BusinessWeek captures the inexorable blurring of lines between the professional and personal lives among increasingly tech-savvy workers. As the article puts it, this is both good and bads news for the user…and the company. For many our personal toolkit – which used to be limited to a work PC and perhaps a cell phone and home computer – has expanded to broadband mobile phones, BlackBerrys, wi-fi capable laptops, iPhones…the list goes on. As a result workers can access content from a range of tools and numerous locations, and don’t distinguish as much between work and personal tools or content. I know that holds true for me – my Tweeter account is featured via widget in my Net-Vibes feeds…which I access for both work and play; I check my Facebook and Linked-In accounts from my work laptop and my work files from my home desktop; I open my Yahoo email account from a free terminal in the airport; like many, I check my BlackBerry during soccer games and gym workouts; in fact, I am now writing this post from work (full disclosure!) The result of all this overlap – according to BW – is that personal devices (and technology and applications) are making inroads into the corporate domain, and the trend is picking up steam. IT managers in the U.S. and some Euro countries expect use of non-company hardware to grow to 42% of employees by 2008. Some companies are acknowledging this trend and giving their employees more latitude regarding the tools and applications they use. One of the reasons is leaders want to support initiative and foster innovation in the workforce. Another is that preventing employees from access to the online world is simply counter-productive. This has obvious implications for company firewall and security issues – which present a thorny problem even under the best scenario.
Beyond all the technical issues, the most relevant trend in all this is perhaps that the age-old distinction between the employee audience and external stakeholders continues to erode. It no longer matters much where we work from, or when we are working. Employees get as much information from outside sources as inside channels. It no longer matters as much if the technology or tool are yours or not, or dedicated for personal matters or work. All of these changes add up to an increasingly mobile, fluid communication environment with few distinctions between work and play. Good or bad? You decide.