IT resources have been excellently supporting the major shift to remote work we’ve experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but now businesses need a stable approach. While many have decided to switch to fully remote models (hi, Facebook!), others are opting for a hybrid model wherein employees will work a mix of onsite and remote—i.e., at the office and at home.
If you’re an IT leader in a company working a hybrid model, this report’s for you.
Hybrid work is here to stay, and businesses of all types and sizes need an IT leader who can help remote teams stay productive. This report—based on responses to our 2021 Tech at Work Survey*—shares the technology experience of 575 employees working in hybrid models and recommends some not-so-obvious ways IT leaders can better support hybrid teams.
Here’s a quick look at the key challenges reported by the survey respondents.
38% of employees didn’t have a company-issued laptop before the COVID-19 pandemic, and one in four employees were using their personal laptops for work.
31% of businesses are shipping laptops to at least some employees. But this number should be 100%.
The top reported challenge of a hybrid work model is the ineffective scheduling process for on-site vs. remote workdays.
For 67% of respondents, knowing who’ll be working at the office each day would moderately or strongly influence their decision to work at the office on certain days.
88% of respondents say employers should cover some of the costs of creating a remote workspace. Nearly half reported spending between $101 and $500 for the same. (And, yes, as an IT leader you can help.)
As an IT professional, prepping for the “what ifs” is critical and the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted this need for preparation in ways we hadn’t thought previously about. It’s clear now that there’ll be circumstances where people may have to work from locations besides their office. So while your organization may not want to adopt a long-term hybrid work model, it should be prepared for another pandemic, natural disaster, or crisis.
Only 16% of survey respondents disagree that their IT resources are well prepared to support hybrid work—cheers to that! But 28% “somewhat agree,” so let’s discuss ways to shift that perception in your favor and be more helpful in supporting your hybrid company.
Here’s the full breakdown of survey responses:
The work-life balance challenges of a hybrid environment are often discussed, but we wanted to document the top IT-focused challenges employees report on this model. Our survey findings are listed in the next image; we’ll discuss our findings in detail below.
Most of these challenges may seem like ones that you as an IT business leader can’t directly address, but actually, there are three that you can. Let’s get into them.
While this challenge is likely for HR leaders or managers to take on, the selection and implementation of a scheduling software system will fall on IT’s shoulders. A fairly easy win here is to choose a tool that allows employees to view each other’s schedules.
Per our survey results, 67% of respondents say that visibility into who’ll be working at the office each day will have a moderate to strong influence on their decision to work at the office on particular days. This visibility will ensure easier coordination of in-person meetings as well as help employees pick their remote days based on preferences of quieter or busier office days.
Our recommendation: Pick a scheduling system that provides an effective process for scheduling on-site vs. off-site days for all employees, along with a shareable calendar of workforce schedules. These features will help improve the employee experience in a hybrid workspace by giving them the information they want.
The communication culture of your business is likely established by executives, but as an IT leader, you can help solve this challenge by evaluating the type and number of collaboration software tools being used among teams and ensuring everyone has access to these systems.
Our recommendation: Perform an audit of current systems, check which departments are using or not using which tools, and work with department managers to get all teams on the same collaboration platform.
The example we gave in the survey to explain this challenge is a common grievance in hybrid workplaces: Employees at the office tend to get new laptops before remote employees do. But this challenge can also include access to newer or better tech products such as video conferencing hardware used in an office space.
Our recommendation: Take a similar approach as to the challenge above. Perform an audit of all the digital resources used by employees, remote and on-site. Then, ensure your update, replacement, and maintenance policies include a process for supporting on-site as well as off-site employees.
We asked respondents to score—on a scale of 1 to 5—the quality of the software and technology tools made available to them. Then, we asked them to score the interactions they’ve had with their IT department or resources. Overall, employees rated both scenarios a 4 or 5—cheers again for IT!
Let’s start with the software and tech hybrid work employees use.
In terms of quality, internet speed is the most polarizing aspect, with “company-provided high-speed internet” scoring the poorest (10% of respondents scored it 1 out of 5) and “self-provided high-speed internet” scoring the highest (41% scored it 5 out of 5).
Here’s a breakdown of the scores:
The type and quality of internet you can provide to on-site employees are often limited, so it’s not surprising to see that most respondents ranked their own internet higher in quality. But it’s worth evaluating the options available to your office(s) and determining if you’re providing the most effective option.
When we asked respondents if they’d like to give more detail on the types of actions they think their company could be doing to better support hybrid work*, the most popular answer at 30% was that the software they currently use should be reevaluated or updated and/or new software needs to be provided. Collaboration software and virtual private network (VPN) software were the two most commonly cited ones. (*105 respondents chose to answer this question.)
Our recommendation: While the overall quality scores are pretty high, we recommend running a survey asking employees to rank specific hybrid workplace tools to see where you can make improvements. Based on the stats above, a good place to start would be the collaboration software, virtual private network (VPN), or remote access system already in place at your company.
Next, let’s check how respondents scored the quality of common interactions they’ve had with their IT departments and/or resources such as the help desk.
These high overall scores indicate that improving IT interactions with hybrid working teams shouldn’t likely be a top concern for you as an IT business leader. If the majority of these responses were “average” or “poor,” our advice would be to prioritize improving the quality of the IT team’s day-to-day interactions with employees. But as the ratings are pretty high, we suggest delegation to uphold the service quality and focus more on becoming a strategic partner to your business at a higher level.
Our recommendation: Appoint a supervisor or manager on your team to take the lead on maintaining and improving the quality of interactions employees have with IT resources and processes. Share the above stats with the supervisor and have them perform their own employee satisfaction survey to design a plan of action for further improving the quality ratings.
Delegating the effort will ensure employees continue to be satisfied with your IT department while allowing you to focus on the strategy and implementation of higher-level changes to support a hybrid workforce model.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 38% of employees didn’t have a company-issued laptop, and one in four employees were using their personal laptops for work. So when the pandemic started, IT teams across the country had to race to get all employees a work laptop so businesses could still operate.
A future-proof solution to this challenge requires partnership with HR to coordinate the effort, but standardizing a process of shipping laptops to new employees will ensure they can start working from anywhere—could be another city, state, or country. So even if the office is closed for another crisis or the workforce is fully remote, your employees will be equipped to be productive. But by establishing this process, you’ll be enabling your company to have a productive hybrid working model.
We asked respondents how they received their current work laptops. Here’s a breakdown of their responses:
As the numbers above suggest, the majority (38%) of employees went to an office to pick up their work laptops, but this process isn’t a scalable or future-proof solution. Also, having employees purchase their own laptops, with or without reimbursement, isn’t scalable either and creates security risks. A central IT resource should procure laptops and install all the required software apps onto them before sending the machines to employees.
When we asked respondents if they’d like to give more detail on the types of actions they think their company could be doing to better support hybrid work*, the second most common answer at 26% was that they think their company should ship work laptops to employees. (*105 respondents chose to answer this question.)
Our recommendation: Today, it’s likely that the majority—if not all—of your workforce has laptops. But there’s more you should do to support your company: Ship all new hires, whether remote or on-site employees, a laptop before their start date.
48% of respondents say they spent between $101 and $500 to create their remote workspace (not including internet service fee). A rather shocking 13% say they purchased their own laptop and weren’t reimbursed for it.
Here’s a breakdown of the amount respondents reported spending in the past 12 months to set up their own remote workspace:
When asked if their company should have covered these expenses, a majority (88%) said their company should have paid for at least some of the costs. Only 10% said they didn’t think their company should have covered the costs.
Here’s a breakdown of all survey responses:
Providing a remote work stipend is a rather low-risk but high-reward way in which HR can support a hybrid workforce that’s ready to shift locations in the case of a new crisis. This way, employees will feel supported and can offset some of the personal expenses of creating a remote workspace.
Our recommendation: Based on an analysis of the amount reported by respondents, we suggest providing a one-time stipend of $250 per employee regardless of the work location. If necessary, you can ask for receipts of the items purchased, but we urge you not to set rules or limits on what can be purchased (as long as it’s work related, of course). This is an excellent way to show your employees that they are valued and trusted.
This report offers many actionable steps you can take to move from being “the IT crowd” to being a strategic partner in enabling the hybrid workforce at your small business. It’s not an easy change, but as an IT leader, you have a unique opportunity to support a flexible and adaptable work model in a way that’s impactful and will help future-proof your business, especially against the next crisis where everyone may again need to be home to be safe.
Check out this GetApp report: Despite the Challenges, Small Businesses Are Embracing Hybrid Work.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to know who exactly these 575 individuals who took our survey are and if they’re a good source of information for informing policy and process changes. Well, here are the details: All respondents were screened to ensure that they work for SMBs (where the number of employees is between 2-500) with at least partially hybrid work models and that rely on technology in their positions.
Here’s the breakdown of the respondents’ demographics:
|Other/non-binary/prefer to self-describe||0%|
|Prefer not to answer||0%|
|Services: Information technology services and software||19%|
|Services: Other businesses, consulting, or consumer services||4%|
|Number of employees|
|2 - 10 employees||6%|
|11 - 50 employees||17%|
|51 - 100 employees||27%|
|101 - 250 employees||22%|
|251 - 500 employees||28%|
|National: Operating throughout a single country||34%|
|Multinational: Operating in two to five countries||31%|
|Regional: Operating in a certain area of a single country||26%|
|Global: Operating in more than five countries||9%|
|18 - 25||5%|
|26 - 35||44%|
|36 - 45||31%|
|46 - 55||14%|
|56 - 65||5%|
GetApp conducted the Tech at Work Survey in July 2021 among 575 U.S.-based workers at small businesses with at least partially hybrid work models. Respondents were screened for employment status (full- and part-time employment) and number of employees at their company (2-500).
Our survey screened for respondents working in a small to midsize business with a hybrid workplace model and at least minimal dependence on tech for their jobs. Here’s the breakdown of our respondents’ work models:
51% are at a company where at least a minority of employees work remotely at least part time
22% are at a company where a majority of employees work remotely at least part time
15% are in a half-and-half environment
11% are at a company where all employees are remote at least part time.
We didn’t survey fully remote employees in fully remote work models or those working in fully on-site work models, as we wanted to understand the effectiveness of IT in hybrid work models specifically.
Note: All percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number and therefore may not add up to 100 each time.
I’m Olivia Montgomery, a Senior Content Analyst at GetApp. I bring you insights about project management and small business digital transformation. I studied English at the University of Nevada. I've been published in TechRepublic, CIO Dive and TrustRadius. I live in Austin, TX, but I’m a West Coast girl at heart. I love sci-fi, and I've competed in horse jumping for most of my life. My tech trends to keep an eye on: AI-informed automation and data-driven insights through cloud-based software.Visit Author's Page