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HR & IT: A marriage made in heaven?

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Jim Morrison, Director of Human Resources at T-Mobile UK explains how HR & IT can get hitched to provide a flexible, mobile working solution to put the balance back in the work/life equation.



Which department in your organisation would you go to for advice on time management? What about finding help to manage your top-heavy workload or the ability to work flexibly? And what about ways to achieve harmony between your personal and professional lives?

Historically people may have assumed that you would approach the HR team for this type of advice. However technologies including BlackBerrys, datacard and Wi-Fi to name a few have become vital tools in managing our increasingly hectic working lifestyles. It is therefore essential that the IT and HR communities develop a partnership to provide the organisation with an integrated approach.

This cohesive method in the adoption of mobile working between IT and HR teams will help today’s employees. It will help to achieve work life balance, provide employee flexibility, satisfaction, retention, absenteeism and employee stress whilst simultaneously increasing productivity.

Mobile working gives employees the ability to work where they want, when they want and when they need to. Employees can remain productive at all times. Productivity increases because employees can keep working while they’re out of the office and travelling, effectively utilising travel dead time. They are empowered to send emails, create materials, link to office systems and communicate with colleagues, suppliers and customers while they are out of the office. Portable technologies such as BlackBerry, laptops with 3G and/or Wi-Fi connectivity, PDAs and smartphones effectively provide employees with an office in their pocket.

Not only does mobile working increase productivity, but the ability to work anywhere, anytime empowers employees to better manage their workloads, ultimately liberating them from their desks, and often shortening their working day.

If an employee has the ability to clear their inbox on the move with a BlackBerry or a laptop with 3G access, they can focus on key tasks during the day and leave earlier in the evening, answering any emails that need clearing on their commute home. Mobile working therefore becomes not just a productivity tool, but also a work life balance imperative.

A recent survey of 4,000 British office workers, commissioned by T-Mobile BlackBerry, confirmed that 40% find it hard to maintain a good work-life balance. Almost half think they spend too many hours in the office, while 24% cite excessive hours in the office as the reason for rising stress levels. Forty-nine per cent of Britains also believe long working hours have a negative impact on their personal relationships, and 61% believe long days in the office negatively affect their health and fitness.

The cost of unhappy employees is high. Absenteeism cost the UK economy £12.2 billion last year, according to the CBI’s 2005 absence and labour turnover survey. Stress is an increasingly important issue affecting employee happiness and attendance levels, with 13.5 million working days lost per year due to stress, according to Health and Safety Executive data. What a difference a happier, healthier British workforce would make.

According to the T-Mobile BlackBerry survey, British office workers who already use BlackBerry or other remote email devices confirm that they help with time management (66%) and are the best use of downtime (46%). One in three office workers who own BlackBerry or other mobile email devices also report that they help to reduce stress levels.

Today’s successful organisations are becoming more adaptable, resilient, quick to change direction, and customer-centric. Within this environment, the HR professional is a strategic partner, an employee sponsor or advocate, and a change mentor. Therefore as a strategic partner HR should be working with IT to drive and petition for investment in mobile working.

IT department budgets are stretched, and without HR firmly standing behind mobile working it will always be measured and de-prioritised against technology requirements deemed more critical – such as the new finance package being implemented down on level three. The HR benefits, then, also effectively become de-prioritised by the IT decision makers. HR must start driving the mobile working debate as it becomes ever clearer that the majority of organisational issues surrounding mobile working are likely to sit outside the IT department’s remit.

Do you agree? We’d like to hear your views on whether IT solutions including the BlackBerry help to improve work/life balance. Simply post your comments in the box below.

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Annie Hayes

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