Want to Measure Remote Employee Productivity? Look at the Individual’s Experience

Mike Marks January 5, 2021
It’s tempting for CIOs and IT leaders to look at aggregate remote employee productivity metrics for network, device, and application performance. Learn how the individual experience can lead to better investments.

Every time an employee sits down to do their work, technology performance, or what happens on their devices, impacts their ability to be productive. Many factors affect technology performance: the number and type of applications they’re using, the performance of those applications, network issues such as their Wi-Fi connection and network congestion, and the resources and health of the device itself. Performance can make a big difference to remote employee productivity and overall employee satisfaction. According to Volume 6 of the Global Remote Work Productivity Tracker, employees on older-generation devices spend 3 to 60 more minutes a day waiting for web pages to load than employees on devices with 7th generation or newer CPUs.

While it’s tempting to look at aggregate company-wide metrics, or a sample set of application and device performance metrics, or even a company-wide aggregation of data, that perspective could hurt the company’s bottom line. Each employee’s experience matters on an individual level and must be viewed separately when it comes to improving performance, especially when making decisions about upgrading or replacing employee devices.

How is remote employee productivity affected by employee experience?

The employee experience encompasses everything that individuals encounter while working for a given company, starting from their first interaction with said company and ending with their departure from the organization. Technology, and technology performance specifically, is only one of the factors of employee experience. But it’s the one under the control of IT, so it’s a key lever for improving remote employee productivity. It’s important to note that Volume 6 of the Productivity Tracker hones in on page load time and hardware upgrades as just a few of the many metrics to consider within the overall employee experience.

For example, a financial services company might employ stock traders, call center representatives and administrative assistants. While each employee provides significant value to the company, their roles and tasks require different applications and employee devices. Perhaps more than the other roles, stock traders require up-to-the-millisecond information to make purchasing decisions and place orders. Slow application and device performance in this case is unacceptable.

Whether these employees are in-house or remote, the consequences a delay in an enterprise application or web page load time vary significantly – from a double-scheduled meeting that can be resolved with a quick phone call, to a frustrated customer having to repeat their story, to a stock purchasing mistake that costs a customer hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Let’s look at how viewing the individual end user experience can help measure remote employee productivity.

Measure performance for every app and every employee

DevOps_Digital_CoverEmployees use dozens of applications in the course of their daily work, and they all matter in their ability to accomplish their job. When it comes to remote employee productivity, the performance of each one of these applications matters. For web applications, while the average page load time for a company is an interesting metric, the real number that matters is how long it takes each employee’s pages to load.

According to Volume 6 of the Productivity Tracker, based on data from over one million load times during a one-hour time period on November 1, 2020, the average employee’s page load time is 4.2 seconds. More than half of the employees in this analysis experienced longer page load times, with some waiting as long as 10 seconds. If the employees whose pages took 10 seconds to load were stock traders, reducing their page load times would be much more critical than if the administrative or call center teams experienced longer wait times. Of course, web applications are only one type of business-critical app – so the response time of thick-client apps, apps that run on virtual infrastructure, and mobile apps must also be measured.

To ensure the least disruption to the business as possible, IT leaders must measure every employee’s experience at a human level, instead of simply reviewing averages. By focusing on digital experience management on an individual basis, CIOs can create an environment where people are happy and productive. For example, a modern approach to end user management looks at typical telemetry alongside direct user feedback and data that compares individuals’ tasks with the length of time. This approach helps IT teams get a more accurate picture of each user’s experience beyond the aggregate metrics.

Shift from SLAs to XLAs

Many companies test application performance in the data center, measuring it with Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that report on infrastructure availability and latency.  However, the application’s performance in a data center is not the same as what employees experience, especially while working remotely. Instead of these outdated metrics, organizations should measure Experience Level Agreements (XLAs), or the application performance employees experience during their daily work tasks.

Because each employee is different, it’s important to measure the click-to-render time, or each user’s interaction with applications in the context of a business workflow, during the course of the workday. By using XLAs, the IT team can look beyond uptime and availability to determine the metrics that are acceptable to users. For example, teams can set thresholds for acceptable time required for specific tasks, such as executing a trade or looking up a patient’s records. They can also incorporate employee sentiment into their XLA for a qualitative view of employee experience.

Make hardware investments based on actual employee experience

remote employee productivityWhen employees left the office in March, most of them simply picked up the laptop computer on their desk and began using it to work from home. In recent weeks, it’s become clear that remote work is going to continue as the norm for most companies – at least in the short term. As a result, organizations should make the IT investments necessary to ensure their employees have the right tools to do their jobs effectively and efficiently from home. One insight from the latest Remote Work Productivity Tracker is that newer devices can save up to an hour of productivity per day.

However, with many companies facing budget cuts due to the pandemic, IT leaders must make strategic spending decisions regarding device upgrades. For most companies, purchasing newer-generation computers for all employees is not a smart business decision – or even necessary. Older generation devices may perform at an adequate level for certain roles. The only way to tell is to measure the user’s experience and make device refresh decisions based on that measurement, rather than on a simple device age basis.

IT leaders should prioritize newer generation devices for employees who can provide significant business value through even marginal improvements in device performance. By making spending decisions based on employee experience relative to key business outcomes, organizations can improve both their productivity and while controlling costs.

Benchmark performance against industry peers

After the team has determined potential areas for investment, the next step is to consider whether those investments will give the organization an advantage over competitors. By benchmarking the organization’s digital experience against that of other companies of similar size in the same industry, CIOs can see how their business compares.

For example, say the financial service company’s measurements show that stock traders could benefit from newer-generation devices. However, industry benchmarks show that the company is already best-in-class with their device and application speed compared to other financial services companies. Because an investment in new devices will not give the company a greater competitive advantage, the CIO may decide to spend their IT budget in another area.

Remote employee productivity – every employee matters

To sum up, when it comes to measuring the impact of IT on productivity, every employee counts.  When monitoring the employee experience and device performance, many companies mistakenly only measure performance for a subset of employees.

However, the company gets an accurate view of the employee experience only when IT monitors performance for every single employee. Any single employee who has a sub-par experience can impact the overall business. With employee satisfaction, retention, IT expenditures, and even revenue at stake, every experience matters.