The fact that information and communication technology (ICT) has revolutionised the workplace is no secret. Companies, for the most part, continue to embrace technology and decision-makers now operate in accordance with an e-strategy, writes Teryl Schroenn, MD of Accsys.

However the question on the lips of both employers and employees is whether corporate South Africa has really succeeded in achieving balance between people, processes and technology.

 The IT sector has, for many years, been defined by the integration of technology into the corporate space. The reasoning behind this is mainly to enhance operations and capitalise on the efficiency.

Aside from fluctuating levels of IT spend, another key by-product of this growing market has been the rise of the mobile office and the mobile professional.

The competition for business and trade/investment opportunity continues to escalate.  So much so that, by today’s standards, the traditional business discipline of supply and demand compels companies to virtually remain open for business at all hours.

Strict adherence to a formal business hours only policy is slowly but surely being phased out and is generally reserved for specific trades and professions.

There are consequences to an ‘always-on’ scenario and these are ultimately shared by both the employer and employee. Some of the more common results include an increase in sick leave, absenteeism, a drop in productivity, impact on general focus and core operations, as well as higher staff turnover rates.

All these factors have an influence on levels of achievement and efficiency of operation. In businesses that rely on team effort above that of individual input, the consequences of a frequently changing group can be extremely negative.

Fortunately it is an issue that has attracted the attention of the media and it has analysts and authorities contemplating the impact of the modern working environment on the lives of workers. The issue becomes all the more relevant given the prevalence of mobile and wireless products.

The main point being raised is that laptops, notebooks, external personal storage devices and PDAs has promoted a situation in which the employee is, to a greater or lesser extent, constantly connected to his or her job.

This scenario increases in complexity as service providers push for greater access to more affordable, multi-functional devices that promote instant online connectivity and immediate correspondence and communication.

It should come as no surprise then that one of the most telling realities of the modern workplace is the quest for balance between job responsibilities and life outside the office.

It is at this juncture where both parties have to accept some level of responsibility. A company or organisation that has invested in mobile infrastructure for workers and expects a return on that investment in the form of extra man hours, should also be prepared to contribute towards the individual’s well being.

There should be some form of agreement in place in terms of time off, some level of access to resources and information, what constitutes overtime and customer relationship procedure outside of the office.

By the same token mobile professionals should be disciplined in their approach to time management. There should be a policy in place to serve as a guide in terms of availability and connectivity.

In a mobile environment, both employee and employer should take the time to understand the implications of an ‘always-on’ state of business.