All around the world, organizations are scrambling to rapidly scale remote working programs. That involves updating HR processes, adjusting meeting expectations and, of course, introducing new technologies. Thousands of companies are investing heavily in everything from their video conferencing tools to cloud filesharing platforms, and employees are discovering that often the reality doesn’t quite meet the promise as IT teams roll out these new products.
These changes can take some getting used to, so it’s no surprise that social media is currently awash with comments, complaints and observations about the digital workspace – or the ‘new normal‘.
I guess we’re about to find out which meetings could’ve been emails after all…— Sara Wallace Goodman (@ThatSaraGoodman) March 8, 2020
It’s not just the technology either, as our furry friends have had to take some time to adjust to what IDC calls ‘the future of work’.
the human has been working from home the last couple days. and every so often. they let me participate in the video calls. all the other humans cheer when they see me. i am the only thing holding their company together— Thoughts of Dog® (@dog_feelings) March 10, 2020
Given the nature of the average workplace in 2020, an increasing number of companies are now turning their attention to employee experience – specifically, how awful it can be for remote workers. There is no magical secret sauce (yet) that perfects the employee experience, but because it involves every touchpoint from the recruiting and hiring process all the way to the end of employment – and everything in between. It’s often a role that falls between the human resources department and IT.
A growing number of employees are now demanding more freedom and better tools that allow them to work remotely without sacrificing the benefits of working inside the corporate office – especially when they can’t. In other words, they want quick and easy access to all of the data they need to get their jobs done, using mobile-friendly, responsive applications on reliable devices – and do it almost anywhere. They also want the ability to collaborate with colleagues at any time using a variety of Unified Communications (UC) platforms.
Unfortunately for most remote workers, the reality has been far less than ideal.
“Companies typically apply their best design thinking and experience to customer-facing elements, such as websites, mobile apps, retail store design, and even policies and processes. They provide an attractive, easy-to-use, secure environment for customers to engage, but security seldom interferes with the customer experience in a way that would discourage customers from doing business with them. The same should be true for employee-facing technology. Design employee technology strategy in a similar way and ensure that security measures don’t interfere with people’s engagement with their work.”David K. Johnson, Principal Analyst, Forrester
Remote working is nothing new, however. At the end of 2019 NetMotion conducted a study designed to understand more about the most common frustrations that remote workers encounter. The research revealed 16 of the most frustrating factors impacting their work experience, which were grouped into five categories:.
- Poor network connectivity
- Underperforming tools and software
- Slow and dated devices
- Restrictive security and compliance
- Collaboration and communication issues.
By surveying several hundred remote workers, researchers were able to quantitatively understand the most frustrating factors in staying productive when outside the office. It’s worth noting that responders included those working in field environments – so think of employees sat on trains using iPads as well as the person sat behind their home office desk in their pyjamas.
The top ten remote worker frustrations
1. Slow internet speeds
The biggest problem facing mobile workers? Simple. Networks just aren’t fast enough. Compared to well-resourced corporate networks, it seems that 4G and public or home WiFi hotspots just don’t offer enough speed to reliably get work done.
Nothing tests my patience more than slow internet connection.— S. (@SindiFleur) April 3, 2020
2. Undiagnosed network problems
A huge frustration for many employees is when they just can’t seem to get thier internet connection to work. Responders cited a handful of common examples, such as devices show a strong connection but online services failing to connect. Despite apparently being connected, all too often websites will not load, and real-time apps won’t work at all. Annoying.
my work’s VPN has made my internet speed drop to 1/3 of normal. this is ridiculous— J. (@mynameisjanah) March 30, 2020
3. Network disconnects
It’s no surprise that mobile working typically involves being physically mobile too. When switching between different types of networks, often the connection is dropped altogether. The same happens in rural or congested areas. Dropping out of a network like this is the third-most frustrating issue for mobile workers.
Guide to making my internet work:— milk bones (@Gomgrotty) June 6, 2015
Connect disconnect connect disconnect content disconnect connect disconnect connect disconnect connect dis
4. Terrible mobile functionality
A call to arms to mobile app developers: replicate your desktop feature sets. Ranking high among remote workers is the reality that the mobile counterpart to desktop systems will frequently provide weaker functionality – an understandable frustration for those trying to work on a smartphone in particular.
5. Authentication and login issues
Specific policies will vary at each organization, but a common thread for workers was the pain of having to authenticate and re-authenticate to corporate systems. Overbearing password enforcement policies, multi-factor authentication and having to re-login whenever a connection is dropped all contribute to this major frustration.
The network might have capacity, but the copper is unreliable. Not looking forward to the spurious dropouts from the node and having to reauthenticate the VPN and lost data when I begin working from home next week. #nbn— Cdbrown (@BrowntownBrew) March 12, 2020
6. Devices crashing and restarting
Even the highest spec smartphones and laptops will start to struggle with performance after a few years. A large number of workers cite failing hardware when it comes to factors that negatively impact employee experience.
My laptop crashed and now I have absolutely no motivation to do work from home for the next 30 minutes— Dave (@biosphereablaze) April 1, 2020
7. Insufficient battery life
Another sign of failing hardware is recurring issues with battery. That two-day charge can quickly become that two-hour charge if devices are used heavily and start to show signs of age.
very annoying of my laptop to be on “low battery”— Caroline McKnight (@Carolineemck) April 1, 2020
8. Online session timeout
The rise of real-time applications and websites that require and always-on connection has been significant – from VDI to cloud platforms designed to foster better collaboration. The trouble for remote workers is lost productivity whenever a session is restarted due to an unwanted changing network condition.
my roomie did not just restart the internet router to update his ps4 in the middle of my remote work session..I refuse to believe it— v. 🦋 (@VanessaGwyneth) March 30, 2020
9. Using public WiFi
The proliferation of public WiFi has been great for offloading devices from LTE networks and improving the availability of an internet connection. One of the frustrating consequences of this has been that bypassing the login or T&Cs of these networks is seen by mobile workers as significantly hampering the user experience.
is it safe to use starbucks wifi during pandemic— CISSP Googling (@cissp_googling) April 3, 2020
10. Unable to access work tools
Unable to access work resources
Whether it’s a cloud platform like Office365 or a traditional setup requiring the use of a VPN, a popular concern among mobile workers is getting access to the data that matters. For a variety of reasons, accessing work-critical systems can be a real headache for those working in the field.
is there a term for when you cant log in to bloomberg because your right index finger has too much cheeto residue on it for the fingerprint scanner to work?— New River Investments Inc. (@NewRiverInvest) April 1, 2020
There are other issues covered in the report too. These include:
- The IT support team either being unavailable or unable to help due to the opaque nature of remote working
- Problems with internal or external communication tools, such as knowing which software to use or how to contact colleagues
- Technical problems with video or VOIP calls, including degraded video quality or shortcomings with conferencing software.
- Old or out-of-date devices that struggle with the demands of remote working
- Software being not suitable for remote working, such as legacy VPNs or dated filesharing tools
- Overly restrictive security policies, for instance overbearing content filtering policies.
If you are responsible for your organizations remote working programs, a VPN is very likely to be a key part in that plan. Given that so many of the frustrations encountered by remote workers involve connectivity, access and diagnostics, you must ensure that any solution you expect employees to use is not hampering their ability to be productive – the remote working experience has never been more important.