As companies enter 2021, it has become increasingly clear that hybrid working is here to stay. As such, it is vital employers now reassess the way they support remote workers beyond the temporary measures of last year.

GetApp, a business app discover platform, asked over 400 UK employees that experienced the entire pandemic while working, which tools they find are most useful and where additional support from their employer is required.

The findings are helping employers define their HR goals for Q1 2021 and indicate a number of ways they can use technologies to greater effect.

Despite collaboration tools being critical to productivity, 37% still don’t use them

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t just changed where we work, it has also had a major impact on how we do it, requiring new solutions to maintain business continuity. Fortunately, there are a multitude of tools available to help staff work more efficiently remotely.

Our survey revealed that a quarter (25%) of workers consider online meeting software, such as Zoom, one of the three most important productivity tools. Document sharing tools like Google Docs rank second (23%), with collaboration software, including Slack, a close third (20%).

A closer look at the frequency staff are using these tools reveals some interesting insights. Despite respondents ranking collaboration software highly as a productivity aid, more than a third of employees (37%) state they never use it. A surprising statistic at a time when companies need cross-functional teams to connect and collaborate more than ever.

Document sharing tools and online meeting software, meanwhile, are being used at least daily by almost half of all respondents (44% and 43% respectively).

collaboration tools and frequency of use in the UK

Some employees are still forced to use their personal devices for work

In many cases, the speed at which staff had to transition to remote working at the outset of the pandemic led to less-than-ideal support from their employers. 71% had to use personal tools to work remotely, suggesting many companies are not providing the functionality staff need to be at their most effective.

Of those, the use of personal messaging apps (such as WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams and Facebook Messenger) to collaborate with colleagues was common. Similarly, video conference (e.g. Zoom, Viber and Skype) is also used for this purpose. And some respondents found it necessary to use their own devices, including smartphones and laptops.

With hybrid working rapidly becoming the norm, it is increasingly important all business-critical tools are provided by employers – to maximise security, ensure compliance, and support remote employees adequately.

26% still require an improved home office to work productively

The results of the survey point towards a significant proportion of workers needing additional support from employers to help them adapt to remote working. The home office environment is a major factor, with over a quarter (26%) saying they need a more comprehensive set-up to work productively. Connectivity issues, relating to company intranet or the public internet services, have also proven a significant challenge for almost half (42%) of respondents.

These obstacles are further compounded by cybersecurity concerns for more than half (53%) of employees – concerns which could be alleviated by providing secure company hardware and software, rather than leaving employees to source it themselves.

cyber security measures by companies

Enthusiasm for hybrid working grows as full-time WFH concerns remain

According to our findings, while the vast majority of employees feel positive about hybrid ways of working (76% would like to work remotely on at least a weekly basis), there is enthusiasm to see some transition back to the office. The most popular modalities are all hybrid in nature – requiring flexible software solutions to keep teams productive.

Despite this positivity, there are concerns about the implications of employees, as opposed to management, being able to determine their own place of work. The key fears include missing out on informal chats and the risk of preferential treatment being extended to office-based workers—both of which are a moderate or major concern for half of respondents.

Overall, while feelings about hybrid working are predominantly positive, our survey highlights significant need for some employers to ensure systems and support measures are robust enough to safeguard productivity. Simply investing in effective tools will not be enough if access and training are lacking.

By Lisa Baker, Senior Editor

Senior Editor Lisa Baker is the owner of Need to See it Publishing Group, providing contract news for business and news sites across the UK. Lisa is an experienced HR writer and commentator, editing HR publications for more than 5 years.