By 2015, a significant increase in ‘less-time’ roles will increase the total number of knowledge workers and decrease the average number of hours each works per week, according to new research from Gartner, Inc. As the consumerization of information technology (IT) increases the proliferation of digital devices, content and services, the balance of power is shifting towards individuals in an organisation, according to Brian Prentice, research director, emerging trends and technologies at Gartner.
“As IT becomes woven into the fabric of people’s lives and traditional work-home boundaries are rendered obsolete, digital free-agency will emerge,” said Mr Prentice. “CIOs need to prepare for the arrival of this new work phenomenon, which is being driven by political, social and technology changes.”
Digital free-agency is a term coined by Gartner to describe how people are blending professional and personal computing requirements in an integrated environment.
Retiring baby boomers, working-age mothers and generation X workers are seeking better work-life balance to juggle personal, family and community responsibilities. Traditional work structures are inhibiting people’s ability to achieve this, according to Gartner.
These changes are linked to global social shifts including the move away from a single bread-winner/single care-giver family model and the traditional view of retirement as the end of working life. Gartner says the potential power of this combined demographic will be a force to be reckoned with by governments and businesses around the world.
“When people in these demographics have marketable skills, employers will find it difficult to ignore their requests for more flexibility,” said Mr Prentice. “The additional pressures of an ageing population and skills shortages will lead to the adoption of digital free-agency and flexible work structures as social, political and business necessities.”
As the need to employ skilled staff from demographics unable or unwilling to work 40 hours a week increases, Gartner believes the ‘20-hour-per-week job description’ will emerge - a role that can be successfully accomplished in half the normal time.
Rather than a draconian measure to halve the working hours of all employees, the 20-hour job description, as suggested by Gartner, is an approach to help increase an organisation’s ability to attract and retain skilled and highly qualified workers.
“The 20-hour-per-week job description is a relatively simple way of addressing a growing problem without radically restructuring well-established management models. Gartner is asking the CIO to consider a long-term planning scenario that prepares for the 20-hour job description and the rise of digital free-agency. That consideration needs to happen now.”
According to Gartner, the consumerization of technology is enabling a new approach to work.
“CIOs need to accept the fact that there will be an increase in less-time roles, and the people in these roles will be increasing their use of IT including devices, communications technologies and social networking. They will be spending less time at work but using technology more in all the other aspects of their lives. It will be very hard to draw a distinction between the personal and work computing environment. The shift in power away from the organisation, and in particular, the IT department, will be even more significant with these people,” said Mr Prentice.
Gartner is encouraging CIOs to view digital free-agency as a business-relevant trigger that can spur the creation of policies that address two countervailing trends: the need to control the computing environment on the one hand, whilst providing increased user autonomy on the other.
“Digital free-agency is certainly not without its challenges, but CIOs need to recognise that it is a business value opportunity that enables specific governance strategies to be developed as well as setting the stage for further consumerization initiatives. Ultimately, by preparing for digital free-agency, the IT department will be able to position itself as a proactive enabler of true business change,” Mr Prentice concluded. About Gartner:
Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) is the world's leading information technology research and advisory company. Gartner delivers the technology-related insight necessary for our clients to make the right decisions, every day. From CIOs and senior IT leaders in corporations and government agencies, to business leaders in high-tech and telecom enterprises and professional services firms, to technology investors, we are the indispensable partner to 60,000 clients in 10,000 distinct organizations. Through the resources of Gartner Research, Gartner Consulting and Gartner Events, we work with every client to research, analyze and interpret the business of IT within the context of their individual role. Founded in 1979, Gartner is headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, U.S.A., and has 3,800 associates, including 1,200 research analysts and consultants in 75 countries. For more information, visit www.gartner.com.