More than 40 percent of professionals working at home because of the pandemic would prefer to work remotely full time in the future, suggests a new report from Valoir.
“One of the reasons we did this survey was to help provide people with more data to understand they weren’t alone, and we expected to hear more about stress and the negatives of remote work,” said Rebecca Wettemann, principal at Valoir.
“What was surprising was that the data says more than 40 percent of people prefer working remotely,” she told the E-Commerce Times.
The survey was conducted online in March and April and data was validated through more than 20 phone interviews. Respondents were divided equally among companies with 500 or more employees, those with 50-500 employees, and those with fewer than 50 employees, Wettemann said.
The majority were from professional services, government/education, other services, technology and nonprofits.
More than half of the respondents had worked partially from home or a remote office before the pandemic, and more than 10 percent worked from home full-time.
Four out of five respondents gave their employer an A or B grade in supporting remote work.
The biggest distraction was social media. Nearly one-third of respondents reported spending nearly two hours on it.
Job security was a concern for 28 percent of respondents, and company viability for another 5 percent. Combined, those issues scored more than 10 points higher than concerns about becoming sick, or worry over the illness of a family member or loved one.
One in five respondents said their productivity remained unchanged. About the same number reported an increase as reported a decrease.
Longer working hours, reduced commuting time and reduced in-office distractions may explain why productivity largely was unaffected.
Those working and living alone — 40 percent of respondents — saw productivity fall 3 percent on average.
Respondents with kids, accounting for 28 percent of respondents, saw productivity fall 2 percent. Those living with someone but without kids saw productivity fall only 1 percent on average. Nearly 46 percent of respondents worked from a home with other adults present.
People working from home were using various free and commercial technologies to support their work, Valoir found. On average they spent 17 minutes, or about 3 percent of their workday, dealing with technology issues.
Zoom’s Popularity Overrated?
In addition to Web and videoconferencing tools, 12 percent of respondents used online collaboration and document-sharing tools such as Slack, Salesforce Quip or Google Docs, Valoir found. Zoom was the preferred remote work tool for the majority of respondents, followed by FaceTime, Google and Microsoft Teams.
These findings appeared inconsistent with reports that Zoom’s popularity has been skyrocketing because of the pandemic.
“A lot of people are using chat or similar capabilities within enterprise apps like Salesforce Chatter,” Wettemann noted. “Also, people are using instant messaging on their smartphones or messaging capabilities within FaceTime and WhatsApp.”
In the long run, security, reliability, integration and adoption will weigh heavily with IT enterprise leaders over ad hoc tool choices such as Zoom, she suggested.
“Beyond the initial pitching in to make things work, it will be harder for managers and employees to collaborate and be effective at a distance, and that requires more than a few good Zoom calls,” Wettemann noted.
“The first big move was to move meetings online,” she said. “Now, people are realizing other kinds of collaboration are just as important and, in some cases, better, so we’ll see more adoption of enterprise cloud content tools like PaperVision.com and Box, and collaboration tools like Slack and Salesforce Quip.”
Issues Workers Face
Reliable broadband access is the main tech challenge at-home workers face. Many have to share Internet connections with others in the household.
Nearly 40 percent of 1,000 adults aged 35 to 44 throughout the United States surveyed by Wilson Electronics over the phone and online in April reported seeing Internet or cellular connectivity issues increase since they began sheltering in place.
More than 82 percent did not have a solution for fixing those issues, said Jeff Gudewicz, Wilson’s chief product officer.
About 40 percent believed connectivity issues during the pandemic and beyond would impact their own or a family member’s education, he told the E-Commerce Times.
“The fact that millions of Americans have been forced to learn and work from home in response to COVID-19 quarantines has highlighted the digital divide in a new way — that having access to the Internet is not a privilege but rather a right that should be treated as any other utility,” said Jessica Denson, communications director at nonprofit organization Connected Nation.
A multifaceted approach must be taken to redress the situation, she told the E-Commerce Times, which would entail the following:
- Better broadband coverage mapping;
- Expanding programs to help low-income families access the Internet and the technology required to leverage it;
- Private-public sector partnerships at the state and community level to identify ways to expand access;
- Working with large and small providers to identify new opportunities and ways to support expanding infrastructures;
- Supporting the expansion of technology to all schools and students; and
- Providing training in various fields.
The FCC contends the digital divide is closing.
However, that is not true for everyone, Denson pointed out. In fact, it has been growing for those with low incomes or in rural areas.
“Some of these areas don’t even have basic access,” she said, “and with new technologies already being put in place, such as 5G, they’ll be further left behind the curve.”