G2 is constantly following the evolving B2B tech industry, especially during this uncertain time. As part of a series of articles based on a recent survey we conducted, G2 analysts have highlighted some key issues and statistics about what small business employees are facing while working from home, along with possible tools and courses of action everyone can take away.
G2 conducted a remote work from home survey between March 24-27 to gain further insight into remote working experiences due to the current COVID-19 outbreak. We received responses from 676 users, representing all business sizes—enterprise, mid-sized, and small businesses—from over 18 different industries. We wanted to understand the challenges these companies are facing as they adapt to remote work. Specifically, we wanted to understand how companies are updating their communication processes, how their spending is impacted, security concerns they might have, and how comfortable their employees are working from home using their current tools.
Small businesses are slowest to adopt remote working technology
With 88% of respondents working from home due to the coronavirus epidemic, it should come at no surprise that most employees are seeing their company update software and processes around communication, business instant messaging software, and employee communications software. These platforms help ease the burden of communicating with all employees working from home full-time.
Even though enterprise and mid-sized companies are experiencing updates at a rate of 60% and 50%, respectively, small businesses are only updating their communication tools at a rate of 40%. In fact, small businesses have had the lowest update rates in seven of the top eight areas.
There are many possible factors that might explain this statistic. For example, companies might have so few employees that they can effectively communicate through email, instant messaging, or phone; or they don’t have the budget to update or invest in such tools. Budget may not be a barrier though, there are dozens of business instant messaging software that offer free trial versions and are made specially for small businesses. No matter the size of your organization, this type of software facilitates one-on-one, direct messaging and messaging within predefined groups and teams, while eliminating back-and-forth emails.
According to our survey, the largest increase to small business technology or business processes as result of COVID-19 outbreak are:
Small business tech spending and future usage
Similar to updates to technology, about 40% of employees from small businesses expect their company’s software spending to increase, which is again, less than mid-market (43%) and enterprise (54%) sized organizations. Why are small businesses spending less than mid-market and enterprise size companies? Do they have smaller budgets or are they not as financially prepared to handle sudden and unexpected shifts in the economy and market?
|Related: Business software spending trends during the COVID-19 health crisis →|
According to a study prepared by JPMorgan Chase & Co. that surveyed 600,000 small businesses, the average small business holds about 27 cash buffer days in reserve in the bank, meaning the average small business has 27 days of cash outflows it could pay out of its cash balance if its inflows stop.
Cash Buffer Days
Cash buffer days are the number of days of cash outflows a business could pay out of its cash balance were its inflows to stop. We estimate cash buffer days for a business by computing the ratio of its average daily cash balance to its average daily cash outflows.
This statistic could further explain why small businesses are hesitant or less willing to increase their technology spending in response to their employees working from home full-time due to the coronavirus.
Most employees believe that this software is here to stay
We’re fortunate enough to have the technology that we do, such as countless software, speedy Wi-Fi, smartphones, cloud computing, instant messaging, and so on. These technologies have enabled us to not only successfully work from home, but to collaborate and communicate with colleagues and customers instantaneously. It would make sense that companies would continue to use these software after the COVID-19 epidemic.
In response to our survey, almost 90% of small business employees believe that at least a few changes that were made to their technology or processes will remain in place permanently. And why wouldn’t they? Further studies show that working from home leads to increased productivity, and according to a Canada Life survey, 77% of employees who work from home agree that they are more productive than when working in an office. This could be due to a more structured and calm environment with less distractions. A Stanford survey found that employees who work from home are 13% more productive than their in-office counterparts.
Furthermore, allowing employees to work from home gives them more autonomy because some people can be very particular about when and how they work. When people are at home, they have more control and operate in a way that best suits them. Working from home also eliminates employees' commute, which can reduce stress and traveling costs, resulting in a happier, healthier, and more motivated workforce. Finally, and maybe the most important reason for a company to keep their software upgrades in place, is to be prepared in case another tragedy or epidemic strikes and forces employees to work from home. If companies already have the proper software and tools in place, employees can seamlessly move from working in the office, to working from home.
Potential security risks: 23% of small business remote employees lack security training
Regardless of company size, about one-third of respondents have experienced issues with home and public network security risks while working remotely due to COVID-19. Within small businesses alone, only 23% of employees have had required security training, compared to 32% with mid-sized companies, and 31% for enterprise organizations. The bottom line here is that not only do a majority of small businesses significantly lack security tools and training while working from home, but they simply aren’t as focused on overall security as much as they could be. According to Aaron Walker, G2’s expert on cloud, application, and network security technologies, some network security risks that working remotely poses include:
- Access to the company network
Network access policies should limit access to the business network, applications, and other information hackers value; these policies help ensure only authorized parties with a legitimate need have access to view, edit, or use sensitive data. Using identity and access management (IAM) software, companies can authenticate their employees’ identity before providing access to corporate assets.
- Lack of compliance guidelines
Compliance guidelines should be developed to prevent the loss of sensitive or personal information. Organizations should outline and encrypt sensitive data stores and sensitive data in transit using encryption software and data loss prevention software to help companies prevent data from being extracted without authorization.
- Password policies
Companies should require devices and account passwords be updated regularly. They should also enforce strong password protection guidelines that follow industry standard policies such as those NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) releases every year.
- Bring-your-own-device “BYOD” policies
These policies are commonplace among modern businesses, but companies should still keep a close eye on all devices connected to their network. The most difficult aspect of BYOD security management is ensuring sensitive files and information doesn’t leave the network, so companies should enforce regular anti-malware, application, and system updates.
Even if a small business lacks the finances or IT resources to implement all or some of the recommendations above while their employees are working from home, there are several easy to use antivirus software options on the market that are not only effective against potential malware, viruses, worms, trojans, or adware, but are also easy to set up. This empowers almost any employee to install and manage one of these software remotely, adding additional security and peace of mind for them and their company.
The new normal?
As working from home or remotely has become the new normal, at least for the near future, companies of all sizes, especially small businesses, need to focus more resources around implementing and upgrading their tools, especially in regards to meetings, communication, and productivity. There seems to be a correlation between employees who have the tools at home they need to succeed, and feeling comfortable working remotely. Our survey indicates that of the 85% of employees that believe their company has provided them with sufficient tools to work from home, 86% are comfortable working remotely. On the other hand, of the 15% that don’t agree that they have the tools they need, only 55% feel comfortable working from home.
This is the time where companies are being forced into adopting new technologies and processes because their employees are required to use them to succeed. Our studies show that most employees believe that these tools will become so ingrained in their day to day lives, that at least some, if not all, of these products are here to stay.
Survey Methodology: Data collected from 676 respondents from March 24-27. Individuals surveyed are business people who are currently working remotely full-time, 88% are working from home directly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Respondents reside in the North Americas, APAC or EMEA, come from all industries and roles, and comprise a mix of G2 users and outside respondents.