VPN and desktop use and employee hours spike due to the coronavirus

As more employees work from home due to COVID-19, some HR leaders note the lack of adequate technology infrastructure, according to Gartner.

People are working at least two hours more a day compared to the period before the COVID-19 outbreak, according to new data from NordVPN Teams. The US is spending an extra three hours per day on business VPNs—that figure marks the highest jump worldwide, the company said. There has been a "massive spike in desktop usage" as people around the world have started to work remotely since March 11 in in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic, NordVPN Teams said. Desktop use has grown by 91% in the last week.

At the same time, a recent Gartner webinar snap poll found that 91% of HR leaders in Asia/Pacific region indicated they have implemented work from home arrangements since the outbreak, "but the biggest challenge stems from the lack of technology infrastructure and lack of comfort with new ways of working," said Saikat Chatterjee, senior director, advisory, at Gartner.

Business VPN usage skyrocketed in Canada, Austria, and the Netherlands, growing by over 200%, NordVPN said. "Interestingly, Italians showed a modest 10% growth, which coincided with a widely reported spike in usage on home networks, many of which might lack the necessary protection for remote work," the company said.

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The UK seems to be preparing the most, NordVPN Teams said, citing the fact that its sales in the country grew by 400%. "This highlights a growing trend: Companies need powerful, cloud-based security to go remote," NordVPN said.

According to its study, countries affected by quarantine are using business VPNs more than ever before, according to NordVPN Teams. Austria saw the highest growth at 161%. The spike in desktop usage across the board can be directly attributed to the mass wave of remote work around the world.

US workers increased their average workday by almost 40%, adding an extra three hours—the largest jump worldwide, according to NordVPN. The UK, France, Canada, and Spain are seeing a two-hour increase, the company said.

In addition to the findings, the data revealed employees are also starting work earlier, but finishing at the same time. The company said the lack of morning commute could be the cause.

The Gartner poll found that 54% of HR leaders indicated that "poor technology and/or infrastructure for remote working is the biggest barrier to effective remote working in their organization."

While cloud-based productivity tools and other employee-facing technologies are increasingly being used, "this sudden large-scale remote working experiment will definitely surface additional lessons learned—and opportunities for improvement," Gartner said.

Even if your technology or infrastructure is inadequate, Gartner advises companies to guide employees on how to effectively leverage email, instant messaging and internal social media platforms to drive better and more consistent usage.

"The first lesson learned from the coronavirus situation is to accelerate the development of a technology infrastructure that can support alternative types of working," said Aaron McEwan, a vice president at Gartner. 

"HR leaders can leverage this opportunity to measure the impact on employee performance and productivity to build a business case for technology investment and more progressive policies for effective remote/flexible working."

Now is an ideal time to improve the remote work experience, Gartner said, noting that by 2030, the demand for remote work will increase by 30% due to Generation Z fully entering the workforce.

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Remote worker, telecommuter, home office

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