Lenovo recently did a study looking at how work styles and tools are rapidly evolving and explored the advantages – and challenges – tech is providing. It highlights the current impact of increased work from home and what most frustrates users.
Now, one of the reasons vendors do surveys is to get a sense of what is going on in the minds of buyers and users of their products. Given the recent changes the market has undergone, it should come as no surprise that users and buyers are in vastly different places than they were at the beginning of the year.
What the survey shows
We spend a lot of time making sure our offices are ergonomically correct, but homes haven’t undergone the same changes. People, at least those who didn’t have home offices, are working out of dens, kitchens, family rooms, dining rooms, garages, and basements. And I doubt many that do have home offices have had them reviewed by an ergonomics expert.
“21 per cent of respondents reported dry, burning or itchy eyes (maybe because they are spending a lot more indoor time with pets, too). Finally, stress is taking a toll, with 21 per cent reporting difficulty sleeping (and outright insomnia), and 19 per cent reporting an increase in fatigue.”
Health takes a hit
Globally, 32 per cent of respondents cited back pains, 28 per cent noted worsening posture, 27 per cent saw an increase in neck pains, 18 per cent pointed to wrist, and hand pain and 22 per cent reported more headaches (likely from lighting and screen proximity). That’s not all. Homes don’t have the same filtration as offices, and 21 per cent of respondents reported dry, burning or itchy eyes (maybe because they are spending a lot more indoor time with pets, too). Finally, stress is taking a toll, with 21 per cent reporting difficulty sleeping (and outright insomnia), and 19 per cent reporting an increase in fatigue.
Technology is responding, but…
It is interesting to note that technology appears to be adapting to COVID-19 as 56 per cent reported that their tools had become more intuitive and user friendly.
People also realise their skills are out of date, with a whopping 65 per cent reporting they need to improve tech skills and 40 per cent afraid they couldn’t keep up with the ongoing changes. Reports about company response were mostly favourable, though 44 per cent said their firm did not have the resources they need to do their jobs, suggesting a clear drag on revenues.
As you might expect with a push toward more automation and robotics, 39 per cent fear they’ll be replaced by technology. Many of these people are likely already looking for new jobs and would be well-served by aggressive retraining and management communication that lets them know their actual risk.
Tech shortfalls and work-from-home issues
The next segment focused on tech concerns, and 32 per cent said that their No 1 concern is that they’re more vulnerable to data breaches and hacking. (Given that working from home effectively makes everyone more vulnerable, this statistic suggests that most are not aware of their increased risks, so it’s likely the majority is not taking adequate precautions). Video conferencing has always been connected to poor advancement and relevance, but only 23 per cent of employees see that is a problem.
As you would expect, 23 per cent indicated that they’re having trouble maintaining a work/life balance and staying focused. With so many kids at home, I’m surprised this number isn’t higher. As you would expect, a substantial contingent, 22 per cent, is having issues with the rate of change, and 20 per cent blame technology for their distractions. There is a lack of trust as well; 18 per cent think their boss is spying on them (and they are probably right).
“As you might expect with a push toward more automation and robotics, 39 per cent fear they’ll be replaced by technology. Many of these people are likely already looking for new jobs and would be well-served by aggressive retraining and management communication that lets them know their actual risk.”
Despite those complaints, only 16 per cent said technology itself is distracting, and a whopping 84 per cent indicated it’s helping them better focus and be more productive.
When asked about what technology they use, respondents cited smartphones (68 per cent), laptop PCs (64 per cent), and desktop PCs (62 per cent) pretty equally. While 42 per cent use dedicated conferencing technology (I know from prior work that this helps them remain more productive), the use of virtual assistants remains small. But at 17 per cent, these assistants remain a significant part of the toolset respondents rely on.
Barriers to adoption and product satisfaction
Barriers to tech adoption are widespread. 25 per cent say training on technology is a problem, 23 per cent say their company has been too slow to adopt new things, and 22 per cent feel their firm isn’t budgeting for needed technology changes. In addition, 21 per cent think management is out of touch with employee needs, and 20 per cent see their company in financial distress and unable to afford what’s needed. Fully 19 per cent (employees) and 17 per cent (managers) actively resisting technology changes.
On the other hand, employees seem to like the technology they’ve been given: 74 per cent are happy with their desktop computers, 79 per cent are happy with their laptops, 71 per cent are satisfied with their tablets, and 80 per cent like their smartphones. They even like their video conferencing tools, with 69 per cent indicating they’re happy with what’s been provided.
“Sadly, a whopping 79 per cent feel they’ve had to become their own IT person, and 62 per cent feel they need to have separate devices for personal and work-related activities.”
The most significant pain points for laptops may sound familiar: battery life (cited by 33 per cent) and processing power (25 per cent). For desktops, the most significant issues were processing power and device age (because companies tend to replace desktops less often than laptops). Smartphone issues involved battery life (37 per cent), data storage (22 per cent), connectivity (21 per cent), performance (21 per cent), screen size (17 per cent) and security (17 per cent). (Overall, 45 per cent of respondents were extremely or very concerned about security – particularly when it comes to personal data.)
Sadly, a whopping 79 per cent feel they’ve had to become their own IT person, and 62 per cent feel they need to have separate devices for personal and work-related activities. (This likely contributes to their need to do their own IT work.) When when the pandemic is over, 52 per cent feel they will continue to work more from home.
Looking to the future
Looking ahead, 74 per cent see Virtual Reality (VR), (and 83 per cent point to 5G) as having a material impact on their work over the next few years. They also see Augmented Reality (AR) on the horizon.
Finally, when asked what tech companies could do to help employees and executives out, 34 per cent want easier to use products. 33 per cent need more training on the tools they use, another 33 per cent want better access to technology, 32 per cent want cheaper alternatives, 31 per cent sought more frequent software updates, and 30 per cent want more tech longevity. Around a quarter of the respondents want faster customer service, help with data analysis, better engagement with their decision-makers, more personalised offerings, and want vendors with stronger buyback, trade-in and refurbishment programs.
The good news from this survey is that most employees are coping pretty well with the new normal. The bad news is that a significant number remain unhappy with the tools they’ve been given, unhappy with management, are becoming less healthy, and find the situation and tools are adversely affecting their job satisfaction, loyalty, and job performance.
These results suggest there is a significant unmet market opportunity for a focused customisable (by employee) service. This service would comprehensively equip and assure that workers’ home environments better match the tools and training they receive with their unique job and personal requirements.
I would expect a significant vendor to launch such a service before year-end, and since Lenovo did the survey, I wouldn’t be surprised if the service came from them.
Let’s see if I’m right.
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