Employees cite lack of social interaction as biggest remote working challenge

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PHOTO: Andrew Neel

Without a doubt, 2020 has been a difficult year for employees. Widespread and sustained remote working has forced many people to learn and embrace new ways of working, resulting in disruptive and rapid changes. As companies now prepare the strategies to help them emerge from the pandemic on a confident and stable basis, the voice of the employee is more crucial than ever.

Every year, my firm CCS Insight asks employees about their attitudes towards technology in the workplace and their perceptions of major technological trends. The latest survey explored the impacts of COVID-19 and working from home on how people use technology for work and their expectations for the future. We surveyed over 680 employees in the United States and Europe on topics such as remote working, collaboration, employee devices, security and privacy, artificial intelligence, automation and more emerging technological trends.

Here I offer a brief overview of some of the most important findings from the “Employee Workplace Technology Survey, 2020” report.

Employees embrace the flexibility of remote working, but yearn for the social interaction of office life

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically accelerated what was an already growing trend in remote working, with nearly two-thirds of employees able to work from home during the crisis. Experience has proven the value and viability of remote working for employees, whetting their appetites for more flexibility in how and where they will work in the future. More than half (56%) of employees want to be able to continue working from home at least part of the time, compared to 43% who could before the pandemic. Interestingly, the survey results complement the results of our Senior Management IT Investment Survey 2020, which received strong recognition from business leaders for increased demand for remote working.

However, extended closures are taking their toll. Employees grapple with the behavioral and cultural challenges of long-term, pervasive homeworking. Although most of the technological bases are now in place to allow them to access their work tools remotely, employees point out a lack of social interaction with colleagues (33%) and a lack of connection with what is happening. in their organization (22%) as their biggest challenges with working remotely.

Clearly, many companies have yet to adequately respond to the social demands of a widely dispersed workforce and the need for a new approach to community, peer support networks and relationship building, as well as top-down communication strategies, when staff are not in an office together.

work from home challenges

The result is that most employees don’t see full-time remote work as a long-term solution, with three-quarters wanting to return to the office at least one day a week. Corporate offices will continue to play a crucial role in enabling collaborative work and team cohesion, but with a third of employees wanting to work from home three or more days a week, on days of having an office for each employee. are probably behind us.

Related article: Will We Ever Return to the Office?

Video call dominates adoption of collaborative tools, but fatigue sets in

After years of testing, video calling finally became mainstream in businesses in 2020, as people searched for ways to replicate in-person meetings away from an office. Along with formal internal and external meetings, ad hoc make-up calls and individual recordings between employees and managers have also shifted to video calls, so much so that meeting fatigue is becoming a growing problem. Employees spend an average of 1.7 hours per day on video conferencing, with nearly a fifth on video calls for more than four hours per day. With half of all employees also working longer hours while working remotely, it’s no surprise that employee well-being is a growing priority for business leaders.

Collaboration software vendors Microsoft and Zoom have emerged as the biggest winners in this increase in video use since the early days of the pandemic, and this was highlighted in our survey, with both companies dramatically increasing their adoption. among employees since 2019. Microsoft is now the most used collaboration tool, used by 30% of employees compared to just 13% a year ago. Zoom takes second place with 25% adoption, compared to 6% in 2019.

Related article: Hidden Dangers: Productivity Killers That Squeeze Energy and Time

Employee experience must remain a priority, with hybrid work now added to the mix

The shifting of work processes and practices to a remote environment has also highlighted for many employees the inefficiencies and frustrations that hinder productive work. The survey found that employees spend an average of 2.1 hours per day on simple, repetitive tasks that are ripe for automation, and continue to face frustrations in their technology experience due to authentication processes. disruptive applications and software updates. Slow technology and old hardware remain scarecrows, with the investment in a new laptop overtaking employee technology wish lists. For the most part, employees rate their technology experience at work positively, but IT managers need to clearly prioritize these areas.

Employee experience is an area of ​​growing interest for companies, in part because of its implications for employee retention and for the ability to attract new talent. About 75% of employees in our survey said technology experience is important when choosing an employer. As remote working is expected to remain a strategic part of our professional life after the pandemic, this hybrid working reality, partly in the office and partly remotely, must become an integral part of employee experience strategies and investments for businesses.

However, the survey also highlights some significant mismatches between IT strategies and employee expectations for the employee experience. While IT managers have highlighted security as their primary focus of the shift to remote working, employees are largely unaware of the heightened security risks to themselves and their employers when working from home. Indeed, less than a third of employees recognize an additional risk.

Many companies are now considering new investments in monitoring to help them mitigate and manage these security risks and track employee work experience remotely. But our survey highlights a mistrust among employees of heightened surveillance, especially when it is seen as overseeing them personally. Companies will need to carefully balance their needs in this area with the need to maintain the confidence of their employees, especially at a time when the workforce is already strained.

Related article: How CIO and HR Director Will Together Rethink Employee Experience

Employees see voice as the most transformative emerging technology

As technological innovation continues to accelerate, transforming and improving many aspects of the lives of businesses and consumers, employees believe that voice technologies have the most potential to make dramatic changes in their experience at work.

emerging technology trends

Voice commands and artificial intelligence-based digital assistants that help automate tasks and eliminate the need for people to touch shared devices are particularly appealing to employees as they envision a return to the office in 2021.

A timely reminder of the need to make employee-centric decisions

These findings offer valuable insights for companies considering workplace transformation, as well as vendors targeting opportunities in the employee experience. Today’s rapidly changing business environment and changing work practices are accelerating change through technology, but it is essential that businesses and suppliers continue to meet the needs of their employees, supporting them throughout. throughout this transition to ensure that the investments produce the expected returns.

Angela Ashenden is a Senior Analyst in the Digital Workplace practice at CCS Insight, where she specializes in business collaboration, employee engagement and the future of work. She is co-author of the report “Employee Workplace Technology Survey, 2020”.

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