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iPad and Tablet Mania Is Hurting the Office

HP's answer to the iPad, the new Touchpad computer, just was released. Regardless of whether it's a big hit or a bust, the fact of its existence is one more sign that the way your team consumes information has changed, irrevocably. Which means companies are going to have to adjust how they handle technology.

Smartphones, laptops, iPads (or now their many Android competitors) are connecting people to colleagues, relatives and everyone else in their lives, while the division between work and home is blurry at best. This is raising all kinds of management issues (when is someone on the clock and when aren't they? If someone's working on their own time, can you tell them what tools to use?) . Then there are, of course, IT headaches, like security and platform consistency.

A new Harris Interactive survey from the software maker TeamViewer shows that most people mix their work and personal lives more than anyone thought. They also are finding more, better and cheaper ways to do it with each passing week. This can make putting together coherent policy more than a little difficult.

Among the findings (and whether this is good news or a sign of the apocalypse is worthy of your comments):

  • Nearly two-thirds of Americans are now using more than one computer, smartphone or tablet on a weekly basis. If they're traveling, do they really want to carry their "official" work computer as well as their personal devices? If it's a choice between a clunky work-only laptop and a tablet that handles work and personal communication, which do you think people will choose?
  • Thirty four percent of Americans say they use at least 3 devices a week.
  • Fifteen percent say they use four or more computers or smartphones on a regular basis.
While these numbers aren't terribly surprising in themselves, when it gets to where and when these tools are used, things get more interesting. One in ten people want access to multiple computers on a date and almost one in five want access on their honeymoon. It's obviously past the point where "just turn it off" no longer seems like a realistic option.

How much access to multiple tools do people want? According to the research:

  • On vacation 74%
  • While in bed 48%
  • Shopping with a spouse 36% (I'm guessing this is mostly husbands avoiding holding the purse)
  • At a sporting event 29% (either bored spouses or guys who just found themselves on camera and want to tell their friends)
  • While on their honeymoon 17% (one can only guess that it's people who'd like to have a job to come back to)
  • While on a date 11% ( background checks or escape routes?)
What Does This Mean for Businesses?
As consumer products bridge the gap between personal and workplace in ways most enterprise tools don't, there are a number of issues that can't be avoided. How do you help your team members balance the need for constant connectivity with downtime and personal lives? What old rules and regulations are in place that make it hard to access critical information in the simplest and fastest possible way? On the other hand, how do you maintain network security or ensure your company is using a common platform or software version if everyone's doing their own thing?

The rise in available and affordable tools means a coherent, conscious plan is more important to managers than ever before. What is your organization doing to help prepare leaders and employees deal with these changes?

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