September 01, 2023

8 min

Digital Workspace Survey: How to Equip Hybrid Workers

What devices and technology do they use, how often do they use it and what is the level of satisfaction that work-from-home workers have with the equipment available to them?

Person attending a meeting while working from home.

Remote digital workspaces need to be equipped with the right tools and technologies so that those who work remotely from home or other places outside of a company office can continue to be productive and stay engaged. But what equipment do they currently have, what do they need and what are the technology challenges of remote and in-office workers?

We sought to answer those and many other questions through a recent survey on digital workspaces conducted by CDW Canada and hosted on the Angus Reid Forum. The survey examined a wide range of topics related to remote and hybrid working, the challenges for employees in adapting to different working environments, the technologies they require and what’s needed to build effective digital workspaces. A total of 1,054 full, part-time and self-employed Canadian workers in small (100 employees or less), medium (101 to 499 employees) and large (500 or more employees) companies were surveyed.

Responses were also categorized by age (18 to 34 years, 35 to 54 years and 55-plus years) to examine and consider variances and preferences for each group more closely.

In this first of five blog posts focused on the survey results, we look at digital workspace technologies, examine the type of IT equipment that employees use when working remotely, how they use it, how often they use it, the personal devices they use to augment their employer’s work equipment and their level of satisfaction with the equipment available to them.

What are the most popular work from home technologies?

Laptops and monitors are technology staples for those who work from home. Research shows 83 percent of respondents overall say they use a laptop computer when working from home, while 67 percent also use an external monitor. Of those who use external monitors, 44 percent say they use a single monitor, while another 44 percent say they use two.

Other frequently used tech equipment cited by those working from home include:

  • Headsets with microphones – 54%
  • Desks or dedicated workstations – 53%
  • Webcams – 42%
  • Ergonomic chairs – 37%
  • Printers – 34%

Less frequently utilized equipment includes adjustable desks (16 percent), ergonomic keyboards (20 percent) and laptop stands (21 percent).

Nearly all respondents (93 percent) say high-speed internet and/or network connections are essential and were identified as “important” or “very important” when working from home. A total of 82 percent say online collaboration platforms, such as Teams, Zoom, Webex or Google Meet, are important or very important technologies to have when working from home. Other results show the following as important or very important:

  • Adequate lighting – 77%
  • A dedicated desk/workstation – 76%
  • Multiple monitors and an ergonomic chair – 63%
  • Webcams – 61%
  • Headsets with headphones and a microphone for video calls/conferences – 58%

“How you show up as a business professional in 2023 is often based on how fast your internet connection is, how high is the quality of your audio and how high quality is your video,” says Brian Matthews, the senior manager of CDW Canada’s digital workspace practice. “There are good enough work-from-home solutions, but then there are other solutions that really optimize experiences and improve how individuals show up.

“The desired state of work from home should be to have a dedicated work-from-home space that is quiet and where you can effectively work uninterrupted. The video, audio and internet connection that you use to portray yourself to the working world needs to be as good as it can be.”

Who chooses and pays for work equipment?

Overall, 64 percent of respondents say an employer chooses the equipment they use to work from home while 80 percent say their employer pays for that equipment. Nearly half (48 percent) say their IT equipment is both chosen and paid for by their employer. This result jumps to nearly two-in-three (64 percent) of respondents who work at large businesses.

More than a third (37 percent) of respondents working for small businesses say they choose and pay for their own IT equipment. Matthews says he was surprised by this result.

“The fact that more than a third of respondents who work from home or remotely for small businesses actually pay for their equipment is quite shocking,” he says. “The vast majority of Canadian businesses are small businesses, so when you add up all those people who work for them, it’s a huge population of Canadians. Conceivably, millions of small-business workers are paying for their own IT equipment.

“To me, it’s surprising and shocking,” Matthews adds. “I think that could represent potential concerns regarding the ability for small businesses to attract, engage and retain the best talent.”

More than one quarter (26 percent) of those working for medium-sized businesses say they are given IT equipment options to choose from and these are paid for by their employer.

How often do people use personal devices for work?

Most employees say they use their own personal IT equipment to perform work-related tasks at least some of the time. A total of 69 percent of respondents say they use their personal laptops, tablets or phones to access work-related files or to perform work tasks. Matthews says it’s a “key and scary” finding that employees are so regularly using their personal devices for work.

“We’re talking about more than two-thirds of respondents to this survey who may be leveraging devices that are outside of corporate policies and protocols,” Matthews says. “I doubt that a vast majority of organizations realize such a large percentage of employees use personal devices to access work files and resources. Additionally, there are likely a lot of organizations that have not identified the risks associated with the proliferation of personal devices, nor have taken the necessary steps from a security and compliance perspective to ensure vulnerabilities are not being increased.

“If seven out of 10 employees are using their personal devices for work, have you and your security teams taken the necessary steps to ensure those devices aren’t creating additional risks for your IT environment and organization?”

Nearly one in three (32 percent) say they use their personal devices at least more than once each day for work. Only 29 percent say they never use personal devices for work. Those in small businesses are most often using their personal devices for accessing work files or performing tasks, with 49 percent saying they do it more than once a day. Of those who are 55 years and older, 44 percent say they use their personal devices for work more than once a day, but only 23 percent of those aged 18 to 34 say they do so. Interestingly, 33 percent of those aged 35 to 54 years say they never use personal devices for work – the highest result among all age groups.

Where Canadians most prefer to work

Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of those who work from home say they are either “extremely satisfied” or “satisfied” with their current setup.  Only 12 percent say they are “dissatisfied” or “extremely dissatisfied” with their at-home digital workspace setup.

This suggests many have made the effort to create comfortable and effective digital workspaces at home. An overwhelming majority of 82 percent say they prefer a working location outside of a company office. A total of 70 percent of all respondents say they prefer to work remotely from home and only 18 percent say they prefer working at a company office setting. Matthews admits that, even though there’s consensus regarding the appeal of working from home, he is surprised that the result wasn’t higher.

“Shouldn’t it be 99 percent?” he says. “The ability to work from home, to me, is widely celebrated by the Canadian workforce. More and more business leaders are recognizing the links between hybrid work, employee engagement and productivity. For an organization looking to attract, retain and motivate top talent, flexibility is really the name of the game. They need to be able to provide the working mode preferred by people, regardless of which side of the coin they’re on.”

Both men and women shared near identical responses regarding their preference for working remotely from home (69 percent of men vs. 71 percent of women). However, age and other demographics reveal greater disparities in preference.

While four out of five (80 percent) of respondents aged 55 years and older say they prefer to work remotely from home, only 60 percent of those aged 18 to 34 years would agree. And 85 percent of those who work part-time prefer working from home vs. 69 percent of those who are full-time employees.

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