WFH is Working, but Employees Need More Tech and Support

Featured Future of Work Teleworking

It’s been a crazy four months since COVID-19 took over the world and millions of people were suddenly forced into unfamiliar teleworking scenarios.  For those who had already been working at home at least partially, the transition was probably not as challenging – hopefully, they had already worked out any tech or process kinks. 

By and large, though the results have been positive, with almost two-thirds of employees globally saying they have been more productive at home than they were in the office.  We already know many people are working more from home, which can ad to the productivity factor, along with fewer distractions, no commuting time and a more comfortable setting.

Despite that, things could be even better, and workers note a number of challenges with working remotely.  The top five from a recent Lenovo study include:

  • Reduced personal connection with coworkers
  • Harder to separate “work life” and “home life”
  • Getting easily distracted / hard to concentrate
  • Having to do more conference calls than usual
  • Harder to collaborate with people remotely

Some of this is a question of adjustment (work/life balance and distractions).  Working from home is different and there can be an adjustment period before reaching a high comfort level.  The same goes for conference calls.  In the absence of in-person meetings, conference calls are what we’re left with.  Video conferencing, though, does add another level of engagement and brings a more personalized component to calls, making them feel a little more like in-person meetings.

A big part of all of it, though, is the tech people have for teleworking.  The right tech can help scale down the learning curve and create a higher comfort level, but it can also help make conference calls and collaboration easier and more effective.  That’s where business leaders can do better.

The problem is few employees (19%) feel their companies are early adopters or leaders when it comes to new tech.  Not surprisingly, that figure is even lower for the <500 employee market, and slightly higher for 500+ employee companies.  This makes sense, considering 82% of employees say they have experienced issues when trying to keep up to date with new tech that could help them in their remote situations.  The top barriers include training, budgets, and a gap between IT decision makers and employee needs, and almost a third are dissatisfied with collaboration tools to which they have access.

Given that, it’s not surprising that 70% of workers have purchased new technology on their own to enable WFH – almost 40% have paid for the items partially or completely from their own pockets.  While the additional tech might enable increased productivity, it certainly does nothing for morale, and could easily lead to resentment.  The average U.S. worker has spent about $350 on tech. That could be anything from new monitors to headsets to wireless mice and keyboards.

The other element that should be a high priority for every company is security.  Almost three-quarters of employees are concerned about data security on their work devices when working remotely.  As a result, IT teams – whether through internal teams or outsourced to MSPs – need to put an even greater emphasis on protecting hardware, software, and data.

The good news is that, despite some of the challenges, almost half of workers continue to have a positive outlook on teleworking, with 27% saying they are “happy” about the prospect of remote replacing physical offices, and 21% feeling “excited” about it.  More than half believe they will work from home more than in the past, even when the pandemic allows more people back in their offices.

But, to make it work, companies need to invest in the tools and training to.  One of the key takeaways from the Lenovo survey is that workers want more accessible tech, and they want to be properly educated on how to maximize their capabilities.

As for personal connections, well, that’s a twofold effort.  One is continuing to collaborate around businesses, but perhaps more important is the need to engage water cooler conversations.  It doesn’t even need any special tech – just pick up the phone and call.  You could even set up weekly team meetings – Tuesdays during lunch, for instance, where team members can all get together and share with each other about anything not work related.