Employees in Canada expect to be able to work remotely, whether it’s from home or from any mobile device regardless of location. But not all enterprises have a strategy to make that happen, according to a recent survey of Canadian IT decision makers by Citrix Canada.

Enabling the Remote Workforce in Canada found that 84 per cent of IT decision makers report that their organizations have remote working employees, yet nearly the same amount (83 per cent) claim that their definition of mobility is merely the ability to send and receive emails.

Citrix Canada vice president and country manager Michael Murphy wasn’t surprised by the results of the survey, although some were higher than expected, factoring in that some employees perceive just be able to access their email as working remotely. “If you have true mobility you are working from anywhere as long as you have secure access to your data.”

While one-third of IT decision makers surveyed believe working remotely is a trend that will pass, Murphy doesn’t believe it’s fad. “I think it’s only you going to increase.” Fewer employers are going to have a permanent work space in a monolithic building, a trend fueled by a generational gap in the workforce.

“There’s a generation of managers who need line of sight with employees to know they are working,” he said, but millennials will choose when they work, where they work and how they work.


Remote working is here to stay

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The survey found that for the most part, IT decision makers believe enabling a remote workforce is here to stay and good for business.

Clouding computing is changing where IT infrastructures resides, so it’s inevitable that mobile technology should change the working paradigm, said Murphy. About seven years ago, consumerization of IT was a megatrend, and it’s won over. “That ship has sailed.” IT is in awkward position sometimes, having to deliver new apps and data sources to any form factor, on-premises and off premises.


Clear business benefits

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Increased productivity, employee retention and increased worker mobility are all big drivers for enterprise mobility.

While the obvious concern is that employees won’t actually get their job done if they’re not in the office, research shows that there are business benefits as employees are more engaged and more productive, said Murphy, even more loyal and more contributory. It allows companies to be nimbler, and employees to be task focused and project focused, and allows everyone to make better use of their time. And, he added, geography becomes less relevant and enables companies to draw from a global talent pool.

The need for a strong remote working strategy

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Despite the general consensus that employees want to work remotely more often and that there are benefits, a significant number of organizations still don’t have a mobility strategy.

Some employees are willing to make trade-offs to work from home, the survey found, and would even be willing to take a pay cut for the chance to work outside a traditional office setting, said Murphy, but the question remains: how much? Most likely, it would be the equivalent of their commuting costs, but doubts they would be willing to give up thousands of dollars in salary.


Remote working, defined

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And although remote working is highly desired, a good majority believe it merely involves the basic ability to send and receive emails, although more than half believe it involves securely storing company data in the cloud, while two-thirds believe it to providing employees with mobile devices.


The changing nature of work

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The paradigm of work is definitely changing, with three quarters of respondents saying all employers should offer the ability to work remotely, and increasingly, the nine-to-five office setting is seen as outdated.

That means not just working from home, but letting employees work from home has a lot of benefits that aren’t necessarily reflected directly on the spreadsheets, said Murphy. For example, many in the Greater Toronto Area commute into Toronto proper from Barrie. Allowing them to work from home more often would certainly decrease the stress and unproductivity of being behind a windshield for several hours a day, and would be better for the environment as well.


Staff desire greater flexibility

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The Canadian workforce is looking for flexibility, and would make sacrifices to work remotely two days a week. The survey found five per cent would take a salary cut.

Ultimately, a good security framework must underpin any mobile strategy, said Citrix’s Murphy, with devices themselves becoming less critical and securing specific apps and data being paramount to securing enterprises with a disappearing perimeter.



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Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.