According to the Riverbed Future of Work Global Survey 2020 which surveyed business decision makers, while 89% of business leaders are comfortable with their employees working remote - and 52% completely or very comfortable - from a technology standpoint, 77% of these same business leaders reported they were not completely prepared to support extensive remote work at the beginning of the outbreak.
However the findings also indicate the vast majority of organisations were not well prepared when the COVID-19 pandemic began, but moving forward, the majority of business leaders said they are investing in technology to improve remote work performance, and have high expectations of their return.
“While some Australian businesses had previously been embracing agile workforces prior to COVID-19, the past few months have been a forcing function accelerating this drastically,” said John Milionis, Head of Channel for APJ, Riverbed.
“Now that business leaders are beginning to explore what a post-pandemic workforce could look like, it is promising to see in this study that they are now much more comfortable with their teams working remote. However, the study does make it clear that the potential benefits expected from remote work is contingent on having the right technology in place to ensure greater productivity for employees as they increasingly work from anywhere.”
According to the Riverbed survey performance issues have impacted employees and the business - and nearly all (95%) business leaders surveyed reported technology performance issues for remote workers that have impacted their employees and the business.
The most common issues – “all resolvable” – include: apps not working properly (38%), poor quality of video meetings (35%), frequent disconnects from corporate networks (35%), slow file downloads (35%), and long response time when loading apps (27%).
And when asked about the impact these issues have on the remote work experience of employees, business leaders report: increased technical disruptions (36%); increased anxiety and stress (35%); a lack of work motivation (30%); increased difficulty engaging with customers (30%); weaker employee performance and lack of productivity (25%).
Business leaders also say the biggest barriers to success for ensuring the performance of a remote workforce are technology to optimise or improve remote performance (36%), spotty or unreliable home Wi-Fi (39%) and the need for better visibility into network and application performance (31%).
Despite challenges, more than one in five (21%) Australian business leaders expect half or more of their employees to work remotely (full time or at least half time) after COVID-19 - and, in addition, on average, business leaders in Australia expect 24% of employees to work remote after COVID-19, a more than 80% increase versus prior to the pandemic.
In the global survey, industries projecting the largest average percentage of their teams to work remote after COVID-19 are those less dependent on physical presence, including financial services (39% vs. 28% before the outbreak) and professional services (35% vs. 28%).
To drive greater remote working performance, 55% of business leaders in Australia say they plan to make additional technology investments - and 28% plan to make significant investments - in the next 12 months
Among global industries, financial services (88%) and professional services (67%) plan to make additional investments over the next year.
According to the survey, business leaders have already begun to identify their priority strategies and technologies to enhance remote work for their employees and their company, and the top initiatives business decision makers plan to undertake in the next two years include:
- re-evaluating and/or re-architecting IT environment (46%)
- updating company-wide remote workplace strategies and policies (40%)
- increasing the use of cloud services or SaaS apps (40%)
- investing in application or network acceleration solutions (33%)developing new digital business products and services (31%)
- investing in digital security technology and software (30%)
- using software for better visibility of network and applications performance (29%)
Business leaders say they expect to gain long-term benefits for their employees and bottom line as a result of increasing their remote workforce, including: better work-life balance 54%; savings from office space and related costs 44%; better use of technology 43%; and increases in productivity 41%.