IT departments need to evolve to meet the needs of a new generation of multi-tasking, mobile workers who want a bigger say in the communications devices they use at work, according to a report. The study found that 83% of today’s office population regularly works from home or from another location.

The study of 1,000 workers from a diverse range of job functions and sectors including Sales, Marketing, Finance, Customer Service and Administration, uncovered a new attitude to work that transcends both demographics and job functions. The term “GenM” is used to describe this new workforce which sees multi-tasking as a way of life, whether at home or at work, regards work-life balance as a far bigger priority than job fulfillment and is willing to work beyond traditional office hours in order to achieve it.

The research found that almost half (46%) of office workers use a mobile or smartphone for work, 35% use a laptop and 1 in 10 are using VoIP to communicate. In addition 72% of the office population regularly takes calls and responds to email outside of office hours and just over half (53%) of all workers are choosing to do so.

Despite this, 1 in 5 people say they do not have the tools and devices to be able to work the way they want. However, many workers are taking matters into their own hands and joining the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend with 28% saying they use their own personal devices for work. Significantly 43% of those surveyed said that the key factor that would improve their productivity was being able to work from home more often or more easily.

The Workforce of Tomorrow

While the study demonstrated conclusively that the new mobility culture cuts across age groups, it also revealed five key trends amongst the under-35 year olds who will be instrumental in shaping the IT strategies of the future.

The consumerisation of IT will become ever more important

The study revealed that 25-34 year olds are much more likely than their older colleagues to use their personal devices at work: almost one in 10 use a tablet to communicate with colleagues; one in five work mostly from a laptop; and 14% use a softphone at work. Significantly 19% of 25-34 year olds said being able to use their personal devices at work would enable them to be more productive.

The workforce of tomorrow will expect to have a say in the IT and communications devices they use at work

A striking 18% of 18-24 year olds and 13% of 25-34 year olds put their device preferences forward to be approved by their IT Manager, compared to just 9% of 35-44 year olds. In addition 8% of 18-24 year olds say their employer gives them a personal IT budget to purchase the devices they want, compared to just 5% across the workforce as a whole and only 3% of 45-54 year olds.

And frustration with current solutions provided by their IT departments is markedly higher amongst younger workers: one in four (25%) say they do not currently have the IT/comms tools available to work the way they want, compared to 20% across the workforce as a whole.

Tomorrow’s workforce will no longer rely on email and deskphone, but will favour more immediate, collaborative methods of communication

The traditional deskphone will decline even further in importance; just 19% of 18-24 year olds agree that the telephone is still the most effective form of communication, compared to 40% of 45-54 year olds. The study also revealed that Instant Messaging (IM) is replacing email amongst the under 35’s with 15% agreeing that IM is more useful than email when communicating with colleagues, customers and suppliers. Furthermore 27% of 25-34 year olds have initiated an IM conversation when on the phone; and almost one in four (24%) 25-34 year olds have conducted a call on a headset so that they can continue to perform other tasks whilst talking.

Social networking will become widespread for business communication

The use of social networking to communicate and collaborate with colleagues will have a far-reaching impact on the workplace – and this trend will be driven by the younger members of GenM; 25-34 year olds are twice as likely as their older colleagues to use Twitter to communicate at work, with one in 10 opting to tweet at work and 11% using social networks such as LinkedIn or Facebook.

Work will no longer be defined by the 9-5 office routine, but rather by connectivity to the business network

The younger members of GenM have a much strong desire than previous generations to stay in touch with the workplace outside of traditional office hours (22% of 18-24 year olds and 17% of 25-34 year olds). They are also much more likely to see it as important to be able to access all of the communications tools they have in the office (email, IM, presence, conferencing) from their mobile; and 38% of 25-34 year olds felt that having access to all of their office communications tools when working out of the office would make them more productive.

A new generation of mobile, multi-tasking, office workers is changing the way we work forever. Rather than making GenM fit the old ways of working, organisations need to adapt to give this new generation the tools and support they need to achieve the work life balance they want. ‘One size fits all’ will simply not work for the workers of tomorrow. The voice call remains important, but is as likely to be initiated via a mobile, laptop or softphone as the traditional deskphone.

IT departments need to support those employees who want to use their own devices for work: but also to provide a wider choice of devices when provisioning communications tools; providing the right tools for multi-tasking, mobile employees will be critical to secure their buy-in, but also to ensure their productivity, wherever they work.

Employers who embrace this trend and empower this new generation of workers are likely to reap the benefits in terms of increased productivity, improved innovation and higher employee motivation – a dynamic, engaged and capable new force for their business. Those who ignore the needs of GenM will fail to win the long-term loyalty of the next generation of business leaders.