Remote working is driving a wedge between employees and IT support

Absence has not made the heart grow fonder, according to a report into the remote-working experience by NetMotion.

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Can't we all just get along?

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Extended remote working could be driving a wedge between workers and IT teams, who continue to lack visibility over large swathes of the remote workforce, new research suggests.

With recent findings from Gartner revealing that nearly half (47%) of all organizations will continue to embrace a fully remote workforce beyond COVID-19, mobile management software firm NetMotion set out to understand the ongoing dynamic between IT teams and remote workers in this largely unchartered working environment.

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It did so through a survey of 500 IT professionals and 500 employees in the US and UK in September 2020, with respondents quizzed about their experiences of remote working.

Its conclusion? IT teams' lack of visibility into the activity of millions of workers, their inability to diagnose the root causes of problems, and the negative perception of technical teams among employees – are all contributing to what NetMotion calls a "burgeoning IT-employee divide".

"Unfortunately, absence has not made the heart grow fonder, as far as the IT-employee remote work relationship is concerned," the report concluded.

NetMotion's survey questioned IT professionals in managerial, director and C-suite positions, while employees who took part in the survey were enterprise workers working in remote roles due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The research looked at how many organizations were using tools to gain visibility into the experience of remote workers, noting that this was an important factor in ensuring that IT teams were able to help employees remediate important issues.

In total, 82% of businesses were found to be using some form of monitoring tools to gain insight into the remote-working experience for employees. 

But even among the businesses that were monitoring remote employees to some extent, NetMotion's survey revealed that technical teams were unable to remotely diagnose the root cause of an IT issue in just under a third (27%) of cases. Meanwhile, less than half (45.6%) of reported issues to IT were resolved satisfactorily.

It's no surprise then that one in four employee respondents reported feeling as through IT departments did not value their feedback.

Yet there appears to be a very obvious reason why employees feel that technical teams are letting them down: they cannot fix what they cannot see.

According to NetMotion's survey, as well as lacking visibility over the devices and operating systems on the network, IT teams are also being hindered by employees who would rather suffer in silence than raise issues with technical teams.

It revealed that 66% of remote workers have reported having encountered an IT issue at some point during the pandemic, yet more than half (57.5%) of these did not share their issue with their IT team.

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Complicating matters further was the tendency of remote workers to take matters into their own hands when trying to tackle technical hurdles: NetMotion's survey found that 62% of remote workers had turned to using 'rogue applications' outside of their organization's official IT policy.

The most popular unsanctioned tools used by remote workers were productivity apps such as Google Docs and Doodle (38%), followed closely by communications software (32%) like WhatsApp and Zoom.

With remote working looking set to stay indefinitely, NetMotion pointed out that there was important work to do if IT teams and home-working employees hoped to maintain harmonious professional relationships going forward.

"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," the report said.

"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."

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