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The work from home privilege [TUPdate]

By Dan Ness, Principal Analyst, MetaFacts, May 22, 2020

Working from home. While it is a blessing for some and may feel like a curse for others, only the few get the privilege. Being able to work from home during widespread public health safety shutdowns has sustained employment for many employees. It has also brought new challenges for those with school-age children or insufficient technology. It has also brought about faster adoption of certain technology products and services while revealing long-present sociological differences. The differences may persist while many of the technological changes will be temporary and evolutionary, not revolutionary.

One in four online Americans are working from home

As of May 14th, 2020, one fourth of online Americans (26%) were working at home. This represents 60% of online Americans employed full-time or part-time on May 14th, 2020. Most of these only started working from home recently. Almost half (48%) of employed online American adults started working from home after February 2020.

Rise in online Americans not employed

Also, as of May 14th, 43% of online Americans were employed full-time or part-time, 8% were self-employed, and 19% reported being temporarily or seasonally unemployed.

Note that 19% rate is not a directly comparable measure to the widely followed U3 unemployment rate from the BLS, which represents active jobseekers. Instead, it is closer in methodology to the U6 rate, which includes discouraged and unemployed workers not actively seeking employment. However, since this survey only included online respondents, offline or disconnected Americans are not included in these results. Their inclusion would make the overall percentage of American adults working from home somewhat lower.

Working at home is strongest among upper socioeconomic groups

Working at home is strongly associated with socioeconomic factors.

A higher share of those with higher educational attainment and household income are working from home. For those with graduate degrees, the rate (56%) is double the national average. In stark contrast, only 7% of employees whose highest educational attainment is high school are working from home, and only 14% of those who have completed some college.

Similarly, higher paid employees have a higher work-from-home rate, at 42% for those with a household income of $85,000 or higher.

Salary and education only two factors explaining higher work-at-home rates. Many occupations do not lend themselves well to working at home. Also, some employers have not embraced having employees work remotely nor have some employers prepared adequately.

The work from home privileged group – from more to even more

The remote workplace has shifted even further in the five weeks between our April 2nd and May 14th surveys, especially for higher socioeconomic groups. Overall, the work-at-home rate grew somewhat from just over half (54%) to 60% of American employees.

Two measures of socioeconomic status – educational attainment and household income – are positively associated with the fastest-growing groups to work at home. The rates of post-graduate employees working at home has grown from 80% to 93% Also, adults in households with incomes of $85,000 or higher have risen slightly from two-thirds (67%) to 71%.

Adults in homes with children have also grown in their work-at-home rates, rising from two-thirds (67%) to 77%.

Technology usage shifts among the work-at-homes

PC use is dramatically different among American employees working from home than those not working from home. Among employees working from home, the mean number of weekly hours is 58.3, substantially more than those not working from home, 22.2 hours per week. A PC is necessary for many work-related tasks, from spreadsheets to collaborative documents.

One of the fastest growing activities – video conferencing – is possible with a smartphone. Despite this, smartphone hours are not measurably higher among those working from home than those not working from home.

Looking ahead

The underlying socioeconomic differences we have seen exposed so far in the pandemic are unlikely to change. They are systemic and have been in place for generations. Further reinforcing these persistent differences, technology has enabled many employees to work from home, although primarily those upper socioeconomic groups. These differences will further separate the haves from the have-nots.

One major technological shift has been around the adoption of videoconferencing. As I have reported in other MetaFacts Pulse surveys earlier this year, groups from seniors to employees and parents have rapidly adopted video conferencing for both personal and work-related calls and conferences. These groups have not been quite as quick to adopt any new technology they had never used. Instead, most are using whatever technology they already had in place, such as a home PC. There has been some supplementing of in-home technology with better webcams and other small peripherals. With economic insecurity both among employers and citizens, many have delayed making capital purchases. Very few employees, so far, have been assisted with employer-provided technology such as new PCs, printers, or VPNs.

There is still much uncertainty today about whether businesses will continue to allow employees to work from home after such time governmental health authorities say it is safe to have workers return their previous workplaces.

Within three years, presuming the virus is no longer causing a pandemic, I expect only half of today’s video users to be regularly doing this practice. That may seem like a dramatic drop. I expect a retreat from video as people spend time again at their workplaces or schools. They will be having in-person meetings again, taking the place of work video meetings. Or, many will be meeting in person with friends or family instead of making that FaceTime or Zoom call.

That will still leave a substantial number of people working remotely, collaborating electronically, and connecting through video calls or conferences. The genie is out of the bottle.

About this TUPdate

The information referred to in this special TUPdate is based on independent research conducted by MetaFacts.

This TUPdate included results from the May 14th, 2020 wave of the MetaFacts Pulse adult survey.

Resources

Current TUP/Technology User Profile subscribers may request the supporting TUP information used for this analysis or for even deeper analysis. Subscribers to the MetaFacts Employees Pulse surveys may request the supporting information and can make additional inquiries. For more information about MetaFacts and subscribing to TUP or the MetaFacts Pulse surveys, please contact MetaFacts.

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Work-life balance – back to the future or the past? [TUPdate]

Progress toward work-life separation, until sudden integration

I will admit to having recently used more than one cliché about these being “unprecedented times” or even that we’re headed towards a “new normal”.

When it comes to work-life balance, what was “normal” is all-too “precedented”. For years, PCs have enabled American employees to bring work home. Enabling is not always a positive characteristic, depending on one’s perspective. No sooner had employees scaled down their work at home, minimizing their commingled work and personal activities, then along came COVID-19.

Employees using Home PCs for work – a recent history

For decades, employees have slowly separating their personal and work lives. Step by step, application by application, employees had been using their home PCs for fewer and fewer work-related tasks. In the MetaFacts 2015 wave of TUP/Technology User Profile, we found that one in three US employees regularly used their home PCs for work email, one in five to search for work-related financial or other information, and one in six to manage work appointments or share files. By our 2019 wave, we found that home PC usage levels for these work activities had dropped to around two-thirds of these levels.

Now that six in ten US employees are working from home, and with almost half (49%) using a home-owned PC, their home PC is getting a lot of work-related use.

In addition to the work activities employees had been avoiding on their home PC, the home or work PC employees are using at home to work is being utilized for an even wider range of activities than before. Well beyond checking work emails, employee communications have broadened well beyond emails to include video calls, group video meetings, and group chats.

Also, more than ever before, there is currently deeper collaboration through shared cloud storage systems and platforms.

The work-life balance challenge made more visible

With so many working from home, the work-life balance challenge is more visible. Six out of ten US employees are working from home and not going to a workplace, a rate we found remained effectively stable in each of our May 7th (61%), April 15th (59%) and earlier April 8th (61%) and MetaFacts Pulse survey waves that included this question.

Interestingly, how employees use their work-from-home PC is different from how they recently used their employer-provided work PC. Employees are spending less time in face-to-time meetings and using their PCs as a focal communicating point to get things done.

Less than a year ago, in our MetaFacts TUP/Technology User Profile 2019 wave, we found employees used their work PCs to do similar activities as we found in our May 7th MetaFacts Pulse survey, although to a greater extent. Employees are using their work-at-home PCs more intensively than they had been using their work PCs. For every type of work-related or personal activities, a higher share of employees is doing the activity than before.

The active life of the work-at-home PC

Among employees working from home in May, 84% are using a PC, whether owned by their employer (35%) or themselves (49%). Their work-related activities are strongly intermixed with their personal activities, except for personal activities with a work PC. Many employers that provide PCs, especially larger employers, lock down the capabilities of the work PC to restrict its use to certain work apps or activities. Also, employees have learned to separate their personal communication activities onto other platforms, especially to use their smartphones.

American workers choose different video platforms for video calls than meetings, and for personal versus work-related matters

US employees have continued to have work meetings – essentially moving from face-to-face meetings to video platforms. With widespread stay-at-home orders in place, video platforms for calls as well as for group meetings have grown in use among employees as well as the general online public, and for personal as well as work-related matters.

However, there is no one single dominant platform for all subjects and numbers of participants. The closest thing to a dominant platform is Zoom, with Skype in the wings. Zoom and Skype are in the top-ranked platforms for both personal and work matters, as well as for calls and multi-person meetings.

Consumer-focused WhatsApp is top-ranked for personal use and among the main platforms being used for work video conferences, likely a surprise to many company’s IT/IS managers.

Corporate-oriented Microsoft Teams and WebEx are ranked within work-related calls and conferences.

Fewer video conferencing platforms for work than for personal

There appear to be more standards in place for work-related videoconferences. While the mean number of platforms in use is close to 3 for personal calls and conferences, as well as for work-related video calls, the mean is closer to 2 platforms for work video conferencing platforms.

Today’s long tail for work video conferencing platforms

The largest number of American workers (37%) use only one video conferencing platform for work-related issues. The rest (63%) are juggling many. This reflects the current state of confusion following the rapid move to working at home. Employers are likely to reduce the number of platforms used, at least within their companies. Standardization helps employees to be more efficient, and can also help employers to strike more favorable pricing with platform providers. However, many outward-facing employees have the same challenge as consumers – finding a common platform when communicating with others who have their own different standards.

About this TUPdate

The information referred to in this special TUPdate is based on independent research conducted by MetaFacts: three waves of MetaFacts Pulse surveys and two waves of TUP/Technology User Profile.

The projections of total US employees are based on TUP/Technology User Profile 2019 conducted among 8,060 respondents and the TUP/Technology User Profile 2015 wave conducted among 2,896 employed respondents. Also, this TUPdate included results from the May 7th, April 15th, and April 8th, 2020 waves of the MetaFacts Pulse Employee survey.

Resources

Current TUP/Technology User Profile subscribers may request the supporting TUP information used for this analysis or for even deeper analysis. Subscribers to the MetaFacts Employees Pulse surveys may request the supporting information and can make additional inquiries. For more information about MetaFacts and subscribing to TUP or the MetaFacts Pulse surveys, please contact MetaFacts.

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Filed under Cloud Storage, Communication, TUP 2015, TUP 2019, TUPdate, Usage Patterns

Don’t let seniors fool you as they Zoom from behind [TUPdate]

By Dan Ness, Principal Analyst, MetaFacts, May 5, 2020

Ageism is widespread in the tech industry. Many younger computer experts had a good laugh when a recent call went out for COBOL programmers. That was, until these relative newbies realized how many citizens would be left waiting for financial support after the recent surge in demand for unemployment checks. Computer experts were even more chagrined then they heard about the hiring bonuses being offered and realized they did not have relevant skills.

As seniors “invaded” Facebook over the last decade, raising the average age bar to its present heights, (age 45 in the US and Germany), younger adults expanded their social networking to additional sites and apps that let them still keep some distance.

Meanwhile, parents and grandparents alike still crave connection, and increasingly find it online. Consequently, we’re seeing rapid adoption Zoom and FaceTime, as well as broader adoption of home delivery services.

Tech-savvy seniors

Seniors are more tech-savvy than they may want to reveal. 95% have used a personal computer (PC or Mac). Their average (mean) experience is 27 years, with 75% or seniors having first started using one 22 or more years ago, half 30 or more years ago, and 25% starting 37 or more years ago. Over half of seniors 60+ have been using one type of personal computer or another for 30 years.

Seniors grew up with computers. A senior today would likely have been a working adult as PCs grew into widespread use. A 60-year old today would have been 24 when Apple released its first Macintosh and 21 when IBM released its first PC.

Personal computing device

Nearly three-fourths (73%) of seniors 60 or older are using a Windows PC as their primary computing device. An Apple iPad accounts for 10%, and 6% an Apple Mac or MacBook. Only 8% use an Android tablet or Chromebook.

Seniors embracing video calls

Many seniors adopt technology quickly when they choose to. And, they are even more likely to when it involves connecting with family members like grandchildren or distant children. Group video calls, such as with Zoom, have grown quickly among seniors. Less than a year ago, we found only 3% of American seniors 65+ doing any regular multi-person video calls or meetings. In our research today (May 1, 2020), we found that 36% have made group video calls since February 1st, 2020.

We have also found that one-to-one video calls have increased, although not as rapidly. Currently, more than a third of seniors are regularly or have recently made video calls. Based on our TUP/Technology User Profile 2019 wave, 23% were making personal video calls. That is now up to 39%.

Video calling less often for alone seniors

Only one in four seniors living alone are staying connected with others through video calls and meetings. The highest use of video calls or meetings is among senior households with 2 or more people. Among households with 2 persons, the rate is effectively half – 50% for one-to-one video calls and 47% for multi-person video calls. For homes with 3 or more persons, the rate is nearly as high. With new things such as technology services, it can help to have someone nearby to show how to use it.

Video calling favorites

Zoom is the most-widely used platform for video calls with multiple people. One in four (24%) of seniors age 60 and higher use Zoom, which is far above the penetration of other platforms. Microsoft’s tools, when combined, make up 8%. Skype makes up most of this set, with 5% of seniors using it. A small percentage of seniors are using Microsoft’s Teams service, primarily those employed full-time or part-time.

For one-to-one video calls, there are a host of choices seniors use. These include FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, and Skype. It is not surprising to see FaceTime, as it is already integrated with nearly all Apple iPhones, iPads, and Macs. Facebook is cross-platform, allowing users to more easily connect with friends who may be using a Windows PC or an Android smartphone. Skype is part of Microsoft Office, and since seniors have a high share of Windows PC, it is likely a choice that is near to hand. Zoom only ranks 4th for one-to-one calls, so it has not fully taken over as a communication platform among seniors.

Working from home

Of the 26% of seniors age 60 or older who are employed full-time or part-time, over half (55%) are working from home. Three weeks ago, we found in our April 8th survey that 61% of age 55+ adults were working from home, an effectively similar rate.

Delivery services

Many seniors are using delivery services for groceries, takeout, or medicine. Use of these convenience services are not among the majority, however. Although current stay-at-home orders vary by region, grocery and medicinal shopping is considered an essential task and these delivery substitutes aren’t available everywhere.

Looking ahead

As long-experienced techies continue aging, they will join the corps of elders bringing along many of their present expectations and demand. Their years of tech exposure along with their predominantly higher generational wealth make them an increasingly important market segment to understand.

However, intergenerational squabbles, distrust, and misunderstanding have persisted for eons. In the US, many advertisers and marketers direct their messages and attention towards youth, or at least towards youthfully aspiring images. While younger adults of means are often the earliest adopters of technology products or services, technology adoption does not suddenly stop at some fixed age.

As the saying goes, old dogs can learn new tricks.

About this TUPdate

MetaFacts conducted independent research to gather the results used in this TUPdate. The projections of total US adults with children are based on TUP/Technology User Profile 2019 conducted among 8,060 respondents. Also, this TUPdate included results from the April 29th, 2020 wave of the MetaFacts Senior Study, the first wave of a special study focused on the quickly changing situation. This wave included responses from 309 online adults with online adults age 60 or older.

Resources

Current TUP/Technology User Profile subscribers may request the supporting TUP information used for this analysis or for even deeper analysis. Subscribers to the MetaFacts Seniors Study may request the supporting information and can make additional inquiries. For more information about MetaFacts and subscribing to TUP or the MetaFacts Student Study, please contact MetaFacts.

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Filed under Communication, Desktops, Notebooks, Shopping, Social Networking, Statistics, TUP 2019, Usage Patterns, Video calling

Parents sharing their home technology – or not [TUPdate]

By Dan Ness, Principal Analyst, MetaFacts, April 24, 2020

Busy parents are busier than ever

Parents are busier than ever with the many stay at home conditions and school closures across the US now.

Two days ago (April 22, 2020), we surveyed 322 online adults with children 18 or younger. We asked them about the computing devices in their homes, how they share them, what they plan to buy in the next few months, and how an additional home PC might affect their home.

Most parents say they have enough computing devices at home. Nearly two-thirds (61%) have as many or more PCs or tablets than people. Many parents said an additional personal PC is not really wanted, as most (35%) say it would make no difference and feel they have enough (12%).

Those few who would welcome a new home computer value several benefits. One-sixth (16%) expect more efficiency – getting more done with less effort, whether it is more schoolwork or for work from home. Almost as many (14%) expect they would have to share the PCs they have less often. They predict there would be fewer fights between their children. (and who wouldn’t appreciate that!).

Yours, mine, and mine

With the many PCs they have in their home, we asked how and if they share them amongst themselves.

More than half (55%) share PCs, with higher priority given to schoolwork (34%) and working from home (25%). Another half (48%) do not regularly share PCs.

So much to choose from

American parents have been the biggest buyers of home technology for the last three decades of tracking them as part of TUP/Technology User Profile. As of our April 22, 2020 survey, 61% of adults with children in the home have as many or more computing devices (desktops, notebooks, or tablets) than people in the home.

Although many of the reasons have shifted over the years, a common thread throughout this time has been caring for children’s education, household entertainment, communication (think email and social networking), and basics such as personal finances. More recently, with the COVID-19 crisis and so many parents staying at home with their kids, there is an enhanced need for many to support their children’s education with homeschooling. Plus, many are now working from home and so now content for the same devices.

Hey kids – be quiet!

Over the next 3 months, as many intend to buy a notebook PC as buy a tablet. Mobility is key, even if currently it means moving from room to room instead of traveling on a plane, train, or automobile.

Computing devices rank strongly, with 39% plan to buy at least one computing device, whether it is a notebook (21%), tablet (20%) or desktop (12%).

Considering planned items individually, managing sound is important while staying at home. Headsets/headphones top the list of planned items, at 34%. Although our survey did not specifically ask this question, having been a parent of teenagers, it is likely that not everyone in the house shares the same musical tastes, much less the same volume levels. Plus, many of the top over-the-ear headsets include noise-cancelling features that could come in handy for either children or their parents. Speakers are the 2nd-mentioned planned purchase, at 22%. These may be for those fortunate enough to have a living space with enough space or walls.

One in six parents (17%) cited their intention to buy a printer. That is not surprising, since in our previous TUP/Technology User Profile 2019 survey we measured printer penetration at 68% in the US, slightly down from prior years. Many new homeschoolers are undoubtedly realizing that a printer is vital for children’s homework, for creative projects, and for working from home.

Interestingly, among homes with children, the ones with strongest purchase plans overall are those that already have computing devices than people. There is a good amount of tech-accumulation in the works, especially among those with the most tech. So much for the tidying up and minimizing lessons of Marie Kondo.

About this TUPdate

MetaFacts conducted independent research to gather the results used in this TUPdate. The projections of total US adults with children are based on TUP/Technology User Profile 2019 conducted among 8,060 respondents. Also, this TUPdate included results from the April 22nd, 2020 wave of the MetaFacts Parent Study, the first wave of a special study focused on the quickly changing situation. This wave included responses from 322 online adults with children age 18 or younger in their home.

Resources

Current TUP/Technology User Profile subscribers may request the supporting TUP information used for this analysis or for even deeper analysis. Subscribers to the MetaFacts Parent Study may request the supporting information and can make additional inquiries. For more information about MetaFacts and subscribing to TUP or the MetaFacts Parent Study, please contact MetaFacts.

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Filed under Desktops, Households, Market Research, Notebooks, Printers, Tablets, TUPdate

Working From Home With What You Have [TUPdate]

Two out of three employees suddenly working from home are not well-supported by their employers, at least not with their technology.

Among the largest US employers, 18.6 million employees working at home are doing so without a work PC. This is almost half (47%) of all US work-at-home employees without a work PC. Pre-pandemic, firms with 1,000 or more employees provided 20.6 million of their employees with at least one work desktop or notebook PC. This measure is based on our TUP/Technology User Profile 2019 wave with 3,935 employed respondents. As of April 15, 2015, 30.3 million online American employees are still working for these large companies with 1,000 or more employees. Of these, 11.7 million employees are working from home with a work PC.

Chart: US Employees working from home with and without an employer-provided PC by size of company

Most employees are effectively subsidizing their employers by using their own personal home PCs, tablets, or working at home without any computing device.

Large companies aren’t the only ones not supporting employees’ technology needs. Midsize companies have 13.6 million employees working at home without a work PC. Midsize companies (50 to 999 employees), have fewer employees in total (32.9 million nationwide) than large companies, of which 21.6 million were working from home as of April 15th, 2020.

Small companies, while smaller in total number, have the highest share of work-at-home employees without a work PC. Their 7.4 million work-at-home employees without a work PC are more than twice as many as their 3.1 million working at home with an employer-provided PC.

Looking Ahead

While employees are still employed and working at home, it’s important that they have the resources they need to get their work done. Employees who already had an employer-provided PC ostensibly need one while they’re working from home.

Larger firms are more likely to have IT/IS departments and computing infrastructure and support built around the physical workplace. Most smaller companies need the same capabilities and if they’re not in-house resources, then they rely on multitude of consultants and VARs/VADs. While remote workers are not a new phenomenon for employers of any size, hardly any were ready for the recent rapid shift due to the pandemic.

Long before the pandemic, employers have long relied on BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) where employees pay for many of their own devices – from PCs to smartphones. I expect the sudden work-at-home shift to inspire some employers to better provide for their employees. Besides building goodwill, this will benefit employers by having a more consistent set of configurations to manage which will, in turn, help employees to be more productive and will reduce employer’s support needs. However, based on experience, I expect inertia to continue – with most employers relying on employees to foot the bill for their at-home work technology and its support.

About this TUPdate

MetaFacts conducted independent research to gather the results used in this TUPdate. The projections of total US employees by employer size are based on TUP/Technology User Profile 2019 conducted among 8,060 respondents, of which 3,935 were employed full-time or part-time. Also, this TUPdate included results from the April 15th, 2020 wave of the MetaFacts Work From Home Study, the third weekly wave of a special study focused on the quickly changing situation. This wave included responses from 396 employees working at home.

Resources

Current TUP/Technology User Profile subscribers may request the supporting TUP information used for this analysis or for even deeper analysis. Subscribers to the MetaFacts Work At Home Study may request the supporting information and can make additional inquiries. For more information about MetaFacts and subscribing to TUP or the MetaFacts Work At Home Study, please contact MetaFacts.

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Filed under Market Research