As we approach the end of an unprecedented year, defined by a large shift towards remote working, we should begin to reflect on how that remote experience has affected employee productivity. According to a recent NetMotion survey, only a quarter of workers prefer the experience of working remote, but have we become more productive? With no more water cooler breaks or long commutes, people should have more time to complete tasks. However, the home environment comes with its own distractions: children refusing to attend their online classes, needy cats, that comfy couch that’s just a couple of steps away from your desk…
It’s difficult to determine whether employees are more or less productive from home, and the data is just as inconclusive. If remote workers are being more productive, do we know why? But if not, how can we help?
Understanding the data
A study from 2013 found that workers were 13% more productive at home. But it’s not as straightforward as it sounds. The participants of the experiment had no kids, a room that wasn’t their bedroom, and high-speed internet on corporate-owned devices installed for them at home. Last time I checked, we can’t tell employees to banish their children or get a bigger apartment with space for a dedicated office. However, we can equip them with the kinds of tools that provide the all-important visibility to troubleshoot internet issues remotely.
A recent HBR experiment had similar statistics. Their research compared the productivity of remote knowledge workers (i.e. workers that apply subjective judgement to tasks and their priority) during the lockdown against data from a similar study presented in 2013. The 2020 results showed that 78% of respondents feel their work activities are essential/important and 88% enjoy or are neutral about those activities; an increase of 21% and 15%, respectively, from the 2013 results.
But these statistics don’t tell the whole story. Although remote employees are feeling better about their work, it’s important to ask whether the output has improved and if it’s positively impacted the business. So how do we find that out? If a company’s IT team has a high level of visibility into their remote workforce, they can identify and eliminate common barriers to productivity, such as network disconnects or misconfigured apps. By monitoring device usage and finding tangible, benchmarkable data, the company’s IT team can then understand what affects their productivity and how it’s tied to overall business outcomes.
As mentioned above, in September NetMotion surveyed 500 enterprise workers in the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as 500 IT professionals. To get a realistic view of the impact of Covid-19, all of the enterprise workers who participated in the survey were in remote roles away from the traditional office environment.
This study found that a quarter of those remote workers consider their workload to have increased since shifting to remote working, with the same proportion saying that the inverse has taken place. There are many possible explanations for this diverse range in responses, including differences in sector, company culture, department, role, and more.
The responses regarding productivity were equally polarized. When asked whether they feel more or less productive at home, almost a third of respondents thought they were less productive. Interestingly, close to a third felt more productive.
It’s important to note here that the respondents were asked whether or not they feel productive. But how do we know if they actually are? With results being so complex across the board, the need for powerful visibility and in-depth analysis is greater than ever. That’s where the relatively new technology known as ‘experience monitoring’ comes in.
The role of experience monitoring
Experience monitoring, or Digital Experience Monitoring (DEM) as Gartner calls it, gives IT teams the ability to actively monitor a host of metrics in real time, while troubleshooting issues related to device, application and network performance. Some examples of these metrics are device activity and performance, application usage, data destinations, web activity and more importantly, productivity.
From a tools and technology perspective, there are several factors that negatively affect the productivity of an employee, which experience monitoring can help identify.
- Dealing with poor internet connectivity. Research shows that the most common challenge for IT teams supporting remote workers has been ensuring reliable network performance.
- Struggling with apps that aren’t suitable for remote work. With many workers electing to not report issues to IT teams, it should come as no surprise that 62% of remote workers are ditching those apps and using applications unknown or unsanctioned by IT teams.
- Using overbearing, traditional security technologies that aren’t made for remote work. VPNs and multi-factor authentication often stifle productivity and frustrate workers. If balancing risk management with good user experience is important in office life, then it’s absolutely critical when it comes to remote working.
- Hardware that gives up on you. Apparently, laptops need a day off sometimes too.
Eliminating the negative factors listed above is a step towards better employee experience and higher productivity. A step further would be to understand why these problems happened, especially if over a quarter of IT teams have struggled to diagnose remote worker issues.
Understanding the root cause of an issue is only possible with the right tools. Take Allina Health for example. Allina’s top-rated homecare and hospice division deployed remote Electronic Medical Record (EMR) software to review patient medical history, update care plans and document other important patient status information. The challenge was that nurses were experiencing a host of technical issues, meaning the productivity rate of clinical work suffered.
After implementing an experience monitoring solution, the IT team were able to identify that the most common issue was that connectivity was frequently lost, causing critical applications to log out without warning, forcing nurses to re-enter lost data, which they found incredibly frustrating. Within the first six months of implementing the necessary changes, nurses saved enough time to visit 80% more patients each day on average. This led to increased employee satisfaction, decreased staff churn and helped the organization double its homecare unit’s staff, all of which Allina credits to its implementation of DEM.
Employee productivity doesn’t have to be a mystery
Whether employees are feeling more or less productive after this enormous shift to remote working, the right tools can help understand the situation and more importantly, take action. Experience monitoring offers the ability to gather real-time, actionable data about the experience of workers, which can have a massive impact on their productivity and the success of the business. If you’d like to learn more about NetMotion’s experience monitoring tool, check out this introduction to experience monitoring for an overview of the emerging concept as well as original research and data that validates its widespread adoption.
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