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Are smartphones and tablets making us work harder than ever?

Is working remotely good for you or good for the company? Many were surprised by Marissa Mayer's decision last spring to eliminate the option to work from home for Yahoo employees. Perhaps the issue is less about whether you work from home but rather how well you work away from the office.

Employees' addictions to smartphones and tablets has extended work beyond the office and this is definitely impacting productivity. Mobile computing is one of the factors contributing to worker productivity increasing by 25 per cent between 2002 and 2011 — that's like working an extra day every week.

Organisations want their workers to utilise mobile technology — it's a no brainer, since allowing mobile usage means employees can be more productive with their time. However, savvy organisations want to ensure that sensitive business data isn't out there for the world to see.

In the early days of mobile use in the workplace, corporations provided all employees with a BlackBerry, and thus managing devices was a sufficient means to keeping data safe. However, as mobile devices have established themselves, more companies have allowed workers to bring their own devices to work. This means that the mobile devices are no longer company property and trying to manage them is no longer sufficient for securing business data in the hands of a mobile-enabled worker.

Business data and files – whether emails regarding an upcoming announcement or specs for a new product launch — are the most important things employees leave the office with every day. And this key point is being lost in the conversation — it's not about managing and protecting the device itself, it's about allowing access to, managing and protecting the business content that allows employees to work on a mobile device.

Organisations need to be concerned with mobile data security, because the risk of data leakage is growing alongside the rise of the mobile workforce. Some organisations have audited how much of their internal data is being transferred to mobile syncing and sharing apps, and have found that terabytes of proprietary information is stored unsecured and unencrypted in consumer cloud storage services. IBM actually went so far as to ban Dropbox from its network, due to the lack of security protocols around data stored in its servers. But who is more at fault, the employee or the employer? If organisations aren't providing employees with a comparable enterprise-level solution, can they really be surprised that employees are finding their own easy-to-use solutions for business issues?

IT departments are aware that mobile file syncing and sharing by employees isn't unusual, but it is still a serious issue. Obviously, the proper management and encryption of business content should be at the forefront of any company's discussions around mobile usage. The key to enabling enterprise mobile productivity is letting workers choose their own devices — and providing secure enterprise software that's easy to use.

While it may have been startling for Marissa Mayer to order employees back to the office, it wasn't exactly a shock when she discontinued IT support or BlackBerry and gave every employee an iPhone. In an era where every worker has a preference on particular devices for particular projects, organisations need to shift their focus toward providing secure access to content and data on their mobile devices. When you empower employees to fall in love with their smartphones and tablets, it's a win-win. The problem for Mayer now might actually be forcing workers to unplug — or not.

Michael Ashley is the director of product experience at Accellion.