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What Technology Best Facilitates Remote and Hybrid Work?

  • 3 mths ago

The question isn't whether offices are adopting hybrid practices—it's which hybrid practices they're using.

Some, like Google, are firmly in the office camp. They have set a return-to-office deadline of Sept. 1, 2021. Anyone wishing to work remotely for more than 14 days per year needs management approval.

Others, like Ford and JP Morgan Chase, favor flexibility and rotational work models between remote and in-office work.

Many companies are figuring it out on the fly as they start to bring employees back to the workplace.

"We face the biggest shift in work in over a century, and companies don't feel prepared," said Tommy Weir, founder and CEO of enaible. "To set a company up for success and to better understand the technologies that aid productivity at home or in the office, and others that don't, leaders need to turn to data."

He believes artificial intelligence will be the key to understanding employee productivity and which technologies and applications improve performance and empower workers to achieve more without burning out.

Analyzing Productivity

The Aternity Global Remote Work Productivity Tracker report compares three distinct scenarios from the standpoint of productivity and technology enablement: work at home, office work and the hybrid workplace.

The study makes use of a User Experience Index (UXI), a measure of the performance of various applications. This incorporates wait time, page load time, crashes, hangs, errors and other metrics. It is measured on a scale from 0 to 5, with 5 being the highest.

The report finds that software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications tend to perform well, and in some cases better, in remote environments than onsite. But results vary depending on the type of work being done, work patterns and the applications in use.

Researchers analyzed an administrator who used Microsoft applications including Outlook, Teams, SharePoint and Excel, as well as SAP and other applications, and spent three days per week (Monday, Tuesday and Friday) in the office and two days at home. Outlook, Teams and Excel (all SaaS) performed better when the employee was remote compared to performance in the office. Workday is another app that seems to suit remote work, though performance was only marginally better than onsite. Web browsing, too, turned out to be much better at home using a VPN than in the office. However, SharePoint performance was largely the same for either location.

Heavy-duty enterprise applications for enterprise resource planning (ERP), financials and accounting, not surprisingly, don't seem to travel as well. The study finds that employee productivity suffers in a remote setting when SAP is in use. Why? It's such a bandwidth-hogging behemoth that interfaces with so many enterprise systems that its performance suffers outside of the office. The report notes that 20 minutes per week gets eaten up, on average, waiting for SAP to respond. Multiply that by a large workforce using the tool, and a lot of productivity is being drained away.

A possible workaround for such applications is deploying virtual desktop sessions for SAP and other ERP-type software. That could help to eliminate much of the latency challenges that remote workers face.

But some applications just work better when confined to the office.

"Employees who consistently use client-heavy applications could benefit from time in the office, while those who only leverage SaaS applications can have flexibility and can work wherever they want without a noticeable change in application performance," said Jon Hodgson, vice president of product at Aternity.

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