SMEs to continue to face productivity loss as employees working at home suffer in silence about their IT issues

The government has begun the process of lifting restrictions for workers in some industries. But those who have been working from home are expected to continue to do so. 

According to new research commissioned by full-service IT consultancy, ILUX there is a growing trend across the UK of a loss of productivity, caused by poorly provided and maintained IT. Many businesses planned ahead and prepared IT systems for their workers, but it seems that wasn’t the case for all business as the lockdown began. According to the 2,000 home workers that were surveyed, over two thirds (68%) felt that their systems were frustratingly ‘not adequate’ for the job they were expected to do. But it is not just the issue of the computer systems for workers, it is also that of support too – with nearly two thirds again (65%) saying they didn’t feel that they had the support they needed with their IT. 

For businesses, this has been a big learning curve when it comes to their current I.T. systems – many finding that their VPN service was not adequate to allow access to the full number of home working employees. This was reflected in the research, with a fifth (20%) of the home workforce admitting they did not have access to the files and systems needed to do their job. 

James Tilbury, Managing Director at ILUX, comments: “Over the past couple of months we have seen some real success stories – some companies that even performed “trial work from home” days before we were even forced into this situation. But, on the flip side we have seen others who have had to react to problems as they happen. Some business owners have been so overwhelmed by problems that, with some planning, could have been prevented. Something as simple as ensuring you have appropriate licenses for your VPN for the number of remote workers you have would have prevented the employees struggling to reach files and applications, but in the mania that came with sudden, forced office closures, something that can be easily forgotten”.

Many home workers (13%) are still using their own technology at home, leaving businesses vulnerable to loss of, or access to, data as other members of the household use the same computers, laptops or tablets. If restrictions are likely to remain in place for some months, with employees working from home two to four days a week until social distancing measures are loosened, businesses should be preparing themselves with a more long-term solution now.

Tilbury continues: “Providing basic equipment to your home working employees is essential. No business owner should expect employees to use their own systems for work. It adds an additional vulnerability to data and allows unwanted access to systems typically restricted to employees. Basic home working systems - complete with relevant and up to date security software, appropriate business software such as Office365 and access to a secure VPN need not be bank-breaking. Prior to the lockdown, we worked with companies to change all desktops to laptops, all of which had the ability to be used remotely. This provided companies with the flexibility to allow people to work at home when they wanted to, but in a situation like we are in now, it meant that productivity didn’t drop and all files and systems were secured as everyone began to work from home. As a company we are still receiving calls from companies who have suddenly realised workers hadn’t been honest about how difficult they had found using their systems at home – and how this is affecting their productivity and, no doubt, their motivation too.”

As the government sets out its plans for relaxing the lockdown, businesses will be hoping to return to business as usual. Predictions are that this is not likely to be the case, so ILUX has been compiling the information gathered from the research, alongside professional guidance and advice on managing IT for home workers. Business owners should visit www.supportforit.co.uk to find out more and get access to professional guidance and support for their IT.