As employees across the US continue to work remotely, the rise in vaccine availability has challenged business leaders to identify a logical next step for their staff, keeping safety and talent retention top of mind. But workers have moved on and expect at least some remote work and access to an IT infrastructure that can satisfy their needs wherever they are.
This is the basic top-line finding of the 2021 State of work from anywhere outlook report from network performance monitoring firm AppNeta, which identified user expectations for the future of work, highlighting the rise of “work from anywhere” and how this shift in the workforce model will impact IT teams spanning industries after Covid.
The study was based on a sample of 1,000 people across the US, examining views of those Americans who rely on the internet to do their jobs, and identified critical areas to address for a business to successfully implement a work from anywhere model.
The study observed that nearly 80% of respondents stated that their preferred work environment in the long term would include an element of remote work. Employees were looking for flexibility and a hybrid model, either hoping to work remotely permanently or have the option to come into a physical office only when needed.
Furthermore, nearly three-quarters said they would be interested in their employer adopting a work from anywhere approach, allowing them the freedom to pick and choose where they set up work each day.
Surprisingly, since March 2020, 21% of respondents had relocated from their original address, with the American workforce now nearly evenly dispersed across urban, suburban and rural areas, identifying the need for companies to be able to provide the same level of user experience across vastly different regions.
This broader trend of urban decentralisation is said to have created new challenges for already strapped IT teams, as delivering optimal internet connectivity to residential and rural communities can be a challenging task, requiring employers and IT teams to set user expectations around the quality of their network performance.
The survey also found that the events of the past year have challenged companies, regardless of industry, to move entire workforces to operate productively at home, essentially creating IT support needs for individual offices where each employee resided amid the pandemic.
The study noted that as business leaders plan how the new normal will look for their organisations, those adopting work from anywhere will want to set clear expectations for IT support with remote employees.
In a work from anywhere environment, employee expectations are high, with nearly half of those surveyed wanting support from the IT team with critical applications they use, 37% expecting support for internet connectivity issues, 35% expecting support with hardware and one-third expecting IT to support them in learning to use any new tools provided by the company.
Of the technology-related issues causing frustration for remote employees in the past year, the biggest gripe was found to be internet connectivity, with almost half (44%) of respondents expressing their frustration.
Another stress factor was issues with video calls, with 40% of respondents identifying freezing screens and challenges with popular tools such as Zoom. Unsurprisingly, more than a third of users said they were frustrated by technology challenges and experiences with their employer’s IT team since the pandemic, even though 21% of respondents acknowledged the IT team may be doing their best in the circumstances.
And when employees said they wanted IT’s attention, they were wanting it quickly. The study showed that nearly 30% of employees anticipated a response from IT within an hour of reaching out with a tech-related issue.
An additional third thought a response within the business day was acceptable, while only 11% felt that a response within a week was acceptable. In a work from anywhere model, employee expectations need to be tempered to maintain clarity around IT’s responsibilities and protect them from burnout.
Read more about the new normal of work
- Despite the bleak times caused by Covid-19, study finds productivity shrinks, but office and remote workers optimistic about new normal, with a silver lining in the form of accelerating digital transformation and technology investment for remote workers.
- Study finds vast majority of workers feel employers are not fully prepared to support the longer-term move to a hybrid workforce, prompting a need for organisations to plan their “future workplace” better.
- Hybrid working a reality but business leaders not yet giving up on the office, with research finding C-suite executives and business leaders will primarily split their workforces between on-site and remote work, and markedly small numbers looking to adopt exclusive on-site or remote working.
In conclusion, AppNeta advised that where possible, business leaders should add clarity around responsibilities and response time, seek out technology solutions that are able to scale to the dispersed workforce, and assist in network performance monitoring to ease the burden of internet connectivity and support with critical apps.
“The pandemic completely blew up most IT departments’ support model for their remote users,” said AppNeta CEO Matt Stevens.
“Remote office visibility for the user experience of business-critical applications was already a challenge for many, but in the new normal, the ‘user-to-problem ratio’ is now often one-to-one versus the hundreds-to-one that used to be the norm with large groups of users consistently working on a regular schedule from a given office location,” he said.
“The IT prioritisation process of understanding truly critical applications and their associated users, and achieving alignment with the lines of business, has never been more critical to the success of the overall business,” said Stevens.