Innovations in mobile technology and real-time collaboration are helping workers stay productive while they work from anywhere. The possibilities of a digital workspace are endless, but it takes a detailed plan and the right partners to achieve a more productive and secure workforce.
CDW Canada is a leading provider of technology services and solutions for business, government, education and healthcare.
Established in 2003, CDW Canada is the country’s trusted advisor for cybersecurity, hybrid infrastructure and digital transformation. Through its services-led approach, CDW Canada simplifies complex technology to empower customers to focus on their business and thrive in a rapidly evolving landscape.
Techtalent.ca sat down with Brian Matthews, Senior Manager, Digital Workspace at CDW Canada, to talk about findings from their new Digital Workspace survey, which explores the barriers Canadian hybrid workers are facing.
CDW Canada’s research indicates a loss in productivity for Canadian organizations because of hybrid workers spending time troubleshooting IT issues when working from home. What are the biggest causes of these issues and what can organizations do to get ahead of them?
BM: This significant loss in productivity was one of our most concerning findings. Our Digital Workspace Survey found that more than four-in-five (83 percent) hybrid workers in Canada who experience IT issues reported losing an average of 3 hours a week troubleshooting when working from home. To break it down further, three quarters (75 percent) of respondents reported spending 1-5 hours every week troubleshooting or dealing with IT issues. That time adds up quickly and should be a concern for both employees and employers.
The survey found that the top IT issues hybrid workers are spending time dealing with are network connectivity and VPN connectivity issues resulting in 2.6 hours and 2.2 hours of troubleshooting per week, respectively. This makes sense when you consider the basic functionality of hybrid work models is to stay connected across various locations. Other IT issues cited included lack of IT technical support, trouble sharing documents with team members, disruptions and connection issues on video calls.
To get ahead of these pervasive issues, there are three key areas Canadian organizations can focus on:
- Ensure your business processes related to IT support have been digitally transformed. This way, employees are able to receive the support they need in an expedient manner, no matter where they are located.
- Make the investment in proper hybrid technology. Simply put, hybrid workers need to have the right tools and technology that enable a seamless home office experience
- Provide employees with training on how to properly engage with their IT support teams to avoid wasted hours and allow for faster resolution. Investing in technology and digital transformation is a great first step, but it won’t lead to anything if people aren’t making the most of it.
What are some common IT barriers workers face when switching between in-office and work from home setups?
BM: Surprisingly, our survey found that switching back and forth isn’t such a detriment. An overwhelming nine-in-ten (90 percent) respondents said they have little difficulty switching work from at home to in the office, responding that they find it “easy” or “very easy” to make the switch.
For those who don’t find it to be so simple, there are some interesting issues. The one-in-ten (10 percent) hybrid workers in Canada who answered that the switch from at home to in-office is “difficult” or “very difficult,” reported the top barriers are:
- Taking too long to make the commute (56 percent)
- The office not being a good working environment (52 percent)
- Being less productive in the office (48 percent)
Being aware of these barriers, organizations can make the transition easier for their employees. One-in-three (30 percent) respondents who find it “difficult” or “very difficult” to make the switch between the office and home said having the same IT setup at home and in the office would be an influential factor and make it easier to transfer between the two. Further, almost one third (29 percent) say having a reliable videoconferencing service would be influential.
There is a very fine balance between standardizing the tools and technology that an employee uses in the corporate and home office while also recognizing that each environment may require a bit of customization. For example, a hybrid worker who is equipped with a dual monitor setup in the office may become less productive at home if they are working off a single monitor, or even worse, their laptop screen.
One example of the opposite scenario is headsets. The headset that makes the most sense in the office may be different than the best at home or on the go headset. Recognizing these different work modes are optimized with different tools is important to ensuring an engaged and productive workforce.
Is there a connection between a proper work from home setup and a higher level of cybersecurity? Why should organizations pay attention to their employee’s work from home setups?
BM: At CDW Canada, we’ve found that the rapid adoption of work from home for many of our clients has made it significantly more difficult for security teams to ensure a robust security posture. Working from home means organizations may be employing a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) model, so employees are using devices on unsecured networks, which can jeopardize the security of sensitive information.
Our survey found that hybrid workers in Canada are using their personal IT devices (laptop, mobile phone, tablet) for work-related tasks, meaning they are not benefitting from the cybersecurity protection many companies offer through work devices and leaving their workplace vulnerable. The survey found that almost seven-in-ten (69 percent) respondents say they use their personal laptops, tablets or phones to access work-related files or to perform work tasks. More concerningly, nearly one-in-three (32 percent) say they use their personal devices more than once each day for work.
While using personal devices for work on unsecured networks raises security concerns, it’s important to maintain realistic expectations and understand that hybrid work is here to stay. We tell our clients that a BYOD strategy is absolutely a viable option but comes with a host of security and manageability challenges that need to be addressed in order to optimize their hybrid workforce. These challenges are nuanced, so working with a third-party IT partner is the best way to be certain that your BYOD strategy is ready to meet the security threats of tomorrow.
Small businesses face many IT challenges. Are there any findings from the Digital Workspace Survey that are specific to small businesses operating with a hybrid model?
BM: Small businesses are the bread and butter of the Canadian economy and our survey uncovered some very eye-opening and concerning findings. Small businesses (organizations with less than 100 employees, as defined in the survey) are often on the back foot when it comes to mature and secure IT. There are clear and present challenges that are unique to small businesses that require a different set of tools and strategies than medium, large and enterprise clients. These challenges include limited IT budgets, limited IT resources and limited investment into building their cyber-resilience.
Without the freedom of a large budget, IT may not be a priority, but if ignored for long, both their security and productivity can suffer, especially in a hybrid environment.
A lack of IT investment impacts personal device usage and trickles down to negatively affect security posture. Our survey found that more than one third (37 percent) of respondents who work for a small business reported having to choose and pay for their own IT equipment. This lies in contrast to one-in-ten employees (13 percent) working at large businesses who must do the same and highlights the lack of oversight, due to available resources, small businesses have on their employees’ devices, software and usage.
It is imperative that small businesses partner with solution providers who prioritize clients of their size while offering the expertise, right-sized solutions and value-added services that can drive successful business outcomes.
At CDW Canada, one of our primary strategies for helping small businesses is platform consolidation. It can act as an important lifeline to small businesses that are unable to keep up with the pace of innovation. By thoroughly evaluating their existing investments, we can look for tools that are underutilized or at times redundant. This scenario provides opportunities for small businesses to maximize prior investments, which can free up budget to be re-allocated to other important IT initiatives, such as optimizing their security posture for hybrid work.
Many Canadian workers shared similar experiences regarding their hybrid work set ups and I’m curious, does that differ for those who work in IT? Why do you think IT decision makers have different concerns about working from home than non-IT decision makers?
BM: The benefits to hybrid work are a no-brainer for many working in Canada, but when your job is the deployment and maintenance of IT, the decision may not be so simple. IT decision makers are responsible for the IT of their entire organization and their concerns and awareness of the impact of hybrid work on cybersecurity is heightened compared to that of other employees.
Our survey findings indicated that IT decision makers were less comfortable working from home than non-IT decision makers due to their increased awareness of cybersecurity and understanding of the risks when working in a hybrid model. Nearly one-in-five (18 percent) IT decision makers reported data security and privacy reasons preventing them from working from home compared to only three percent of non-IT decision makers.
Although their personal decision to work from the office may only slightly decrease the overall organizational risk, they are still responsible for their organization’s security, which is being made more difficult by the broader teams who are more prone to work remotely.
Concerns over cybersecurity for IT decision makers are echoed in CDW Canada’s 2023 Security Study, which surveyed 553 IT security and risk & compliance professionals and found that two-in-five (40 percent) respondents that store their organization’s data in the cloud said they experienced a security incident in the cloud during the past year. Further, only one third (30 percent) of respondents said a policy exists in their organizations for monitoring and detecting threats within data, assets, applications and services.
These findings serve as an example of how many organizations do not have a one-size-fits-all approach to hybrid work and have identified different policies for different teams.
As hybrid work has become so prevalent and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, what are your top three tips for Canadians organizations to optimize their hybrid work models?
BM: At its core, an effective hybrid work strategy is all about attracting, retaining and engaging top talent in an extremely competitive labour market. It’s very possible that excellent candidates may pass on jobs if a solid hybrid work model isn’t in place. To do this effectively, organizations need to assemble stakeholders across the executive team, human resources, IT, operations, facilities and others to build and maintain a holistic, accessible and resilient hybrid work strategy.
Next, enabling a seamless experience for hybrid workers requires investment. The playbook that organizations have used in the past needs to be adapted and more attention should be paid to optimizing existing investments, employee training and strategic investments into areas like video collaboration, data governance and automation.
Lastly, to simplify user adoption, IT management and productivity we believe that organizations should look for opportunities to consolidate existing tools and platforms that are deployed within their organization. Many organizations may already have the pieces in place for a mature and secure hybrid work model, they just need to put them all together.