While the concept of a majority remote or mobile workforce has been alluded to over the past half-decade – often cited as a component of digital transformation – COVID-19 will be remembered as the catalyst that brought the notion of ubiquitous remote work from ideation to fruition.
And it’s likely that office work will never return to pre-COVID norms. Nearly half of all organizations (47%) will continue to embrace a fully remote workforce post pandemic, according to Gartner.
Unfortunately, absence has not made the heart grow fonder, as far as the IT-employee remote work relationship is concerned.
While the growing divide has been somewhat well documented over the past six months, the root causes of the dismay have not. To understand more about the drivers of the increasingly fragile IT-employee relationship, NetMotion recently surveyed 500 IT professionals and 500 employees in the United States and the United Kingdom, to better understand the origins of this disconnect.
Over the course of a week in mid September, NetMotion asked a series of questions to IT professionals, spanning roles that included manager, director and C-Suite. All of the employees who participated in the survey were enterprise workers functioning in remote roles due to COVID-19 restrictions. The rest of this blog details a portion of our findings, with additional results forthcoming later this month.
IT cannot fix what they cannot see
It can be reasonably argued that there is nothing more important to maintaining an optimal remote worker experience than for IT to have complete visibility and control into employee activities. After all, how can IT be expected to remediate important issues – whether those be related to the network, the device, the operating system, or even security – if they have no way to ascertain either the issue or its root cause?
But our survey found that 1 in 6 organizations are not monitoring the remote worker experience at all. While on the surface 18% of organizations lacking visibility into their remote workers may not sound like a big deal, the numbers paint a different picture.
It’s estimated that in the US and UK combined, there are more than 185 million white collar workers – with nearly 70% of them working remotely in 2020. Based on this breakdown, IT would have zero visibility into the activity of roughly 24 million remote workers, which equates to almost the size of the entire UK white collar workforce (29 million).
Granted, these projections are an estimate; however, they do help us understand at least some of the reason why IT and remote workers are struggling to maintain a frictionless relationship: IT is simply blind.
Root cause analysis challenges hinders satisfactory remediation
Our survey also found that even among the 82% of businesses monitoring remote employees to some extent, IT could not diagnose the root cause of a technical remote work issue 27% of the time. While there is plenty of evidence to support that IT is doing reasonably well at mitigating remote issues, especially under the circumstances, this result suggests that there is plenty of room for improvement.
In total, IT respondents reported being able to most frequently identify network, software and application, and cybersecurity challenges throughout the year. However, failing to diagnose more than 1 in every 4 problems is undoubtedly a source of frustration, not just for the remote workers negatively impacted by the technical issue, but for IT as well.
In total, 66% of remote workers reported having encountered an IT issue so far during the lockdown. Of that, 57.5% did not share their issue with the IT team. While we did not ask for the reasons why workers would keep such information hidden from IT, we suspect that some problems were self-diagnosed.
In other situations, it is likely that employees did not view the opportunity cost of engaging with IT as a beneficial use of time. Our survey found that 25% of workers reported that their IT department does not value their feedback. Workers with such a sentiment often have little faith that IT can resolve a problem, so instead they choose to suffer in silence.
Employee sentiment aside, our survey also found that less than 50% (45.6%) of reported issues to IT were resolved satisfactorily.
Dissatisfaction propels Shadow IT
With abundant dissatisfaction and many workers electing not to report issues to IT teams, it should come as no surprise that remote employees have embraced Shadow IT even more so than they have in years past. Our survey found that 62% of remote workers are using rogue applications – with 25% using a significant number of unapproved tools outside of the official IT policy.
The most popular unsanctioned tools used by remote workers, according to our survey, are productivity apps (38%) such as Google Docs and Doodle, followed closely by communications software (32%) such as WhatsApp and Zoom.
Summarizing what we learned
In conclusion, it’s clear that IT’s lack of complete visibility into the activity of millions of workers, their inability to diagnose all root causes and negative perception among some employee – due in part to unsatisfactory remediator of problems – is a huge part of the burgeoning IT-employee divide. The question thus becomes how to alleviate such constraints when knowing that remote work may be temporary for some but will remain permanent for so many others.
Later this month we’ll begin to answer this question and present some additional findings from our survey alongside the release of a full report. Stay tuned…