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Why Technology Can Still Create Obstacles to Remote Working

July 16, 2020 Collaboration and Productivity
David Roe
By David Roe

If many enterprises are currently using the current pandemic and home-working trend to reset employee experiences, there appears to be no clear consensus on how these experiences should be built. There does, however, appear to be agreement that now is a good time to create a better connect between the employees and employers.

Strategic Employee Experience

Gartner estimates that 88% of organizations have encouraged or mandated employees to work from home due to COVID-19. As work from home becomes the new normal for many, if not most, employee experience has become a strategic business approach that touches every aspect of how the employee engages with the organization. Behind all this is the different technologies and platforms that enable workers to achieve business goals from home. However, not all technology is helping workers in this respect.

Tim Flower, global director of business transformation at Swiss-based Nexthink points out that although the idea of flexible working has been around now for many years, the use of technology to enable working from anywhere at any-time has plateaued in recent years. The COVID-19 crisis coupled with the "remote working" expectation of both Millennials and Generation Z has provided a much-needed opportunity to reassess exactly what is required today with a clear view for the future. Building technology capability which enables flexibility in the workforce has now become a must-do for all organizations.

Wasting Time With Technology

A recent study carried out by Nexthink that looked at the technology problems that disrupt work for remote employees during the current pandemic showed that even pre-COVID-19, in-office employees were losing 28 minutes of work for every IT issue, a pretty dismal state of affairs for both employee engagement and business continuity. With the move to remote working that digital employee experience was even worse. The study showed that:

  • 38% had issues with VPN access to critical software
  • 37% had problems with Wi-Fi connectivity and reliability, and
  • 35% had challenges using video conferencing apps

Innovation is critical for businesses to stay ahead of the competition, and companies need to actively enable that spirit as workers not only work remotely but also become separated from their collaborative coworkers. Collaboration tools can be a great way to ensure all employees have direct communication with each other at a pace that is conducive to spawn creativity and innovation. “But all too often the experience employees have with technology 'at work' is poor, and it ends up slowing them down and getting in the way of that necessary collaboration,” he said. “It also has the effect of reducing individual productivity rather than enabling it. Instead of IT teams focusing on what tools are provided to employees, there should be a focus on how well the collaboration tools are consumed, which means ensuring they have full visibility of the employee’s digital experience.”

Experience needs to be managed to create the best environment for employees to be able to interact and collaborate with each other seamlessly. Flower added that for both spontaneous and planned innovation to be fully enabled and embraced, technology teams need to move away from being the disrupter and reactionary support team and instead deploy capabilities that allow them to proactively manage and improve users’ digital experience. “The vast majority of IT organizations have now had the opportunity to understand the challenges in delivering and supporting a ‘distinctively hybrid’ or ‘all remote’ working model and with this, a realization in experience expectation set by employees,” he said.

The Problem With Sound

One of the other areas of technology that has been creating problems for remote workers is audio for video or sound-conferencing, according to Theis Moerk, VP of product management, and enterprise solutions at Denmark-based EPOS.

He pointed out that to create a more meaningful and lasting emotional connection between the employee and their employer, employees would benefit from higher quality audio solutions. According to EPOS' 'Understanding Sound Experiences' research, decision makers say:

  • Video calls or meetings help them feel closer to their teams (27%)
  • Maintain personal relationships while working from elsewhere (24%)
  • Establish trust in working relationships (23%).

According to their recent research, Understanding Sound Experiences, that surveyed 2,500 end-users and decision makers of audio equipment, over 75% of whom work within organizations of over 200 people, the most popular of these platforms for are:

  1. Skype for Business (used by 38% of end users)
  2. Microsoft Teams (27%)
  3. Webex (16%)

The research also shows that, currently, 44% of end users report poor sound quality while making phone calls and 39% the same with internet calls. In total, 87% of end-users surveyed have experienced at least one pain point due to poor sound quality on calls, whether in the office or working from home.

This means that on average, end-users are losing 29 minutes per week due to poor sound quality on voice calls. For the average full-time worker, this equates to just over three days of lost time. “In the future we expect organizations to provide high-quality headsets‌ to employees in the same way as they do laptops and smartphones; an essential part of the toolkit of the modern worker,” Moerk said.

Integrating Tools

To improve the digital workplace, many organizations are investing in many best-of-breed tools to optimize employee experiences and worker productivity. However, while there are many advantages to best-of-breed strategies, the obstacles can be difficult to overcome, said Greg Heilers, co-founder of Walnut Creek-Calif.based Jolly SEO. Integrating each tool with the other can be complex and difficult which means the enterprise IT team will need to be excellent at integrating third-party products together. This usually takes some skill and is a time consuming and tedious task. “Typically, tools may not integrate and work well with other products in the system making real-time data sharing difficult,” he said.

Standardization of look-and-feel will also be difficult, he added, since all the tools are from different vendors, each will follow their own user interface, leading to a mixed and incoherent look-and-feel to the system.

Finally, it is worth keeping in mind that the vendors of smaller third-party products are often small organizations. They may not understand the needs of larger businesses. Sometimes, they may even go out of business and take the tool off the market, creating issues for tools that have been integrated in existing systems in terms of continuity and data management.

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