Do Mobile Devices Really Increase Productivity?

Anthony Freed
By | January 16, 2013

Posted in: Network Security Trends

While there is little doubt that mobility options provide a great deal of flexibility when it comes to where and when work related tasks can be accomplished, and provide for more efficient means of employee collaboration and access, does it really have an impact on productivity? According to a newly published study, federal government employees who utilize mobile devices in the course of their jobs are realizing an estimated nine hour gain in productivity every week. That's a gain of more than one standard work day every week, equating to approximately $28.4 billion in savings per year for government agencies. Given that the study is anecdotal in nature, these figures are truly hard to swallow.

The report, titled the 2013 Digital Dilemma, was produced by the Telework Exchange, a "public-private partnership focused on demonstrating the value of telework and mobility and serving the emerging educational and communication requirements of the Federal telework/mobile community," according to the organization's website. The group seeks to determine methods of accurately calculating the "potential cost savings and environmental benefits associated with telework," so it's not surprising they produced a study that overwhelmingly supports mobility solutions.

The study surveyed some 300 government employees from a number of different federal agencies, and found that 95 percent of respondents believe the use of mobile devices has vastly improved their work performance. Key stats from the survey include:

  • 76% believe mobile devices have increased their productivity on the job

  • 61% say mobility solutions provide a greater level of communication with coworkers

  • 47% say mobile devices facilitated greater collaboration with coworkers

  • 62% say mobile solutions have improved customer service

  • 58% believe their agency could better utilized mobile device


Those are all reasonable conclusions to reach. The ability to access data and resources on the run, during travel, off-site hours, and the like are all benefits to be expected from mobile device use in the workplace. But how does this really translate into tens-of-billions of dollars in savings?

The Telework Exchange calculated the gain in productivity based on the estimate of a nine hour per week time-savings, which translates to 1.8 hours per day. With 240 workdays in a year, they calculated that employees gained 432 hours, or a total of 54 days by using mobile devices. At an average salary of $83,679 per year, the 1,508,283 using mobile devices in the workplace are saving the federal government the estimated $28,397,622,008. Seems simple enough, but the calculation is based on the purely subjective estimation provided by the survey respondents. Not exactly hard science here.

More interesting though are the study's findings regarding security and BYOD policies, as about half  of those surveyed indicated they are allowed to bring their own personal devices to work. Of those, only 11% indicated their agency has a BYOD policy in place. 79% of respondents indicated that multi-factor authentication is in place on their laptops, but only 27% say it is in use on their smartphones. 76% say their laptops use mechanisms for secure remote access to agency networks, but only 27% of smartphones are equipped with such measures. Lastly, only 11% indicated they have the ability to remotely wipe sensitive data from a lost laptop, and 24% have the ability to do so on their smartphone.

While the cost savings and increased productivity stats cited in the study can be disputed, there is little doubt that security is taking a back seat to convenience when it comes to mobile devices deployed in the federal workspace.

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