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RISMEDIA, April 9, 2009-Do employees view employer-supplied mobile devices as a reward or an obligation? This was the research question at the heart of “Implications of Employer-Supplied Connectivity Devices,” a new survey report by WorldatWork, a global human resources association focused on strategies for compensating and rewarding a talented workforce.

The survey found that management may unwittingly be fueling resentment by providing connectivity devices without clarifying expectations and boundaries of use. In the best conditions, issuing connectivity devices can facilitate work efficiency and improve work-life effectiveness. In other situations, the practice may communicate to employees that they are expected to never disconnect from work, which can lead to resentment or unhealthy work behaviors. Based on a survey of 627 employees across multiple organizations and industries, this research explored the prevalence of employer-supplied connectivity devices, along with users’ work habits, impact on job performance and employees’ perception of the intended message.

Key Findings
-Of the respondents who said they currently use a hand-held connectivity device, 55% said the company supplied their device.
-Three out of four users never turn off their devices.
-The majority reported that using their device enhanced (either greatly or moderately) their job performance. They most often attributed that to having remote access to tools for doing the job, such as maintaining contact with office colleagues or clients, or shortening response time.
-A very high percentage of respondents preferred work segmentation (clear boundaries between work and nonwork) rather than integration (permeable boundaries so that work and nonwork commingle).
-Only one-third of the total sample thought an employer-supplied device is part of a total rewards system, while nearly half believed an employer-supplied device signifies status or importance in the organization.

Many employees – 42% in this sample – believe being given an electronic device means they need to always be available. In companies that support work-life effectiveness, it is even more important that a clear message is given on how (and how much) technology is to be used in what traditionally is considered personal time.

“In the absence of policy guidelines, supported by appropriate communications about leadership’s intentions, the prevailing cultural norms will be left to shape employees’ beliefs as to how technology is to be incorporated into work patterns,” said Kathie Lingle, WLCP, executive director of Alliance for Work-Life Progress at WorldatWork. “Since the “ideal worker” norm predominates in both national and organizational culture, supplying devices with no mention of boundaries (how much is enough and who decides?) is likely to send a message to employees that their work time is expected to spill over into evenings, weekends and vacations.”

“Talent managers would be wise to assess in advance whether workers would view a supplied device as a perk or a tether,” said Gayle Porter, Ph.D., a management professor at Rutgers University. “If the practice of supplying devices is adopted for performance enhancement or work flexibility, the only way to ensure that employees grasp the true intent is to communicate those objectives clearly. Otherwise, the practice might be misconstrued.”

Survey methodology
Commissioned by WorldatWork, the U.S. survey of 627 employees in various functional positions was conducted by Gayle Porter, Ph.D., of Rutgers University. Respondents ranged in age from 20 to 73, with an average age of 38.

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