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Remote workers feel disconnected from company IT departments

As hybrid working becomes the norm, study advises that now is the time to invest in more robust technology to support remote workforces for the long term, and to fend off lingering feeling of resentment over lack of support

Research from Velocity Smart Technology, investigating how IT departments are coping with a move to remote working, has shown that almost half (45%) of office workers have had to wait longer for an issue to be resolved while working from home, with 73% adding that they have had to wait up to an extra five hours for an issue to be fixed.

The smart locker provider’s Supporting your remote workforce in 2021 and beyond report surveyed 1,000 office workers in the UK and 2,000 in the US in December 2020.

The report looks into attitudes to the post-pandemic workplace, with an aim to understand how businesses can make the workplace safer in the era of Covid-19, how performance and productivity can be improved, and what technology solutions can be deployed to improve IT support efficiencies and business value.

It stated clearly from the outset that any attitudes revealed in the study should be caveated with the understanding that no business, however, would have voluntarily embarked on the mass shift to home working that occurred in March 2020 as business continuity plans were rolled out almost overnight.

According to Velocity, more than half of the population in both countries (53% UK, 54% US) has worked from home most of the time during the pandemic, compared with just 21% in the UK beforehand and 29% in the USA.

Companies and individuals scrambled to make remote working happen as they fought for survival. It added that there was no time for health and safety assessments, no training and limited support on offer, and that parents had to handle their children also needing a slice of the broadband for home schooling. The study said the emergency response worked, but it not sustainable.

One of the key issues revealed in the massed remote working was a feeling of decreased levels of support from company IT teams. Velocity went as far as to say that some UK IT departments might take offence by the latest findings, and they have a case, with almost half of the same UK respondents (45%) stating that it hasn’t taken any longer to resolve an issue while working remotely than it would in the office.

However, the survey also showed there was clear room for improvement, with over two-thirds of UK office workers (69%) having experienced had a negative experience with the IT department – either dreading it, feeling patronised, intimated or frustrated at the length of the time they have to wait to resolve a problem. 

The employee service from American IT department was found to be only marginally better, with 60% of US office workers reporting a negative experience. In the US, however, there are larger gains to be made, with more than half of office workers (52%) stating that they have to wait longer to get an IT problem fixed – with 76% of those waiting anywhere from one to five hours for a solution.

Assessing what trends and issues the research revealed, Velocity Smart Technology CEO Anthony Lamoureux observed that the results provided an insight into the pressure that IT departments have been under for the past 15 months.

“With many workplaces going from zero to full remote working almost overnight, this urgent demand undoubtedly led to many IT departments adopting quick fixes out of a necessity to support their workforce, rather than putting in place a long-term plan that can be scaled – which has resulted in poor experiences,” he said.

As it was making its own conclusions, Velocity pointed to a recent Deloitte report, Reimagining operating models to thrive in the new normal, calling on business leaders to let go of long-held beliefs of how and where employees must work, and instead adapt to the new normal way of working.

Velocity believes that its research highlighted what could be the basis for future innovations that UK and US office workers think will improve local IT support. For example, over a third of UK office workers (38%) would welcome 24-hour telephone support from an IT technician – increasing to almost half in the USA (48%).

In addition, over three-quarters of UK office workers (77%) said they would welcome a smart locker being made available at or close to their office premises to provide 24/7 IT support in the event of an IT failure – increasing to 86% of USA office workers.

“Now is the time to invest in more robust technology to support remote workforces for the long term. Many employees are fed up with long, gruelling commutes or have found a happy balance between home and work life, and so, for many businesses, this means coming to terms with the death of the traditional 9 to 5 working day to put in place better IT provisions,” Lamoureux added.

“At the moment, IT teams in the UK and US are stretched beyond the limit propping up hastily constructed remote working processes, many of which include laborious repetitive tasks such as replacing broken or ineffective IT equipment.

“By removing these manual repetitive tasks and automating them through wholly integrated service desk applications, IT technicians and engineers can focus on solving the employee problems and start to repair their reputation within their respective organisations.” 

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