Category Archives: Usage Patterns

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

Work from home or stay at home – ready or not! (and supported or not) [TUPdate]

As a long-time information worker, remote worker, and road warrior, I’ve learned to be flexible, resourceful, and use technology to my advantage. Whether I’ve been crunching numbers or presenting results from a café in Paris, my office, home, or somewhere in between, I’ve carried an evolving assortment of tech devices so I can stay connected and work.

However, there are many people who haven’t had this experience, and may not be prepared or supported.

This TUPdate investigates several groups of consumers and workers who will soon be encountering changes in their use of technology devices and services. With the COVID-19 pandemic and economic shifts taking place now, many are not technologically ready for a work-at-home or stay-at-home experience.

Although a home PC isn’t a requirement to get online, it’s still the most widely used and most-useful device for many activities.Chart comparing work activities by device type

Among one key group – information workers – one of the most tech-savvy and tech-reliant groups, a work PC is the cornerstone of their work activity. Even though most also have smartphones, home PCs, and tablets, there are only a few work activities done more often on any other type of device. Smartphones, despite the many apps developed for them and their constant presence, only surpass work PCs for making phone and video calls. Tablets, which are increasingly becoming PC-like (and not only because of Apple’s marketing), aren’t being used similarly to PCs for work activities.

Information workers are only one of several groups to stand out as not having home PCs and being the most able to benefit from them. For this analysis, I’ve used TUP/Technology User Profile to look at three groups:

  • Information workers – workers who have a work PC
  • Adult students – attending a college, university, or other learning institution full-time or part-time
  • Elders – age 55 or older

Information workers

Information workers as a group are the least ready to be working remotely. While some employers provide work notebooks that could potentially be used at home, most don’t. Forty percent of US information workers and 58% of German information workers are self-supported, having no work notebook but having a home PC. Even higher, 54% of US information workers and 65% of German information workers are unsupported information workers, having no work notebook.Size of key groups working or staying at home

While it’s possible that some employers will simply have employees bring their work desktops home for the duration of their time working at home, I expect that not to be widespread.

Students

A smaller share of students than information workers have no home PC. Among American students, this share (29%) is larger than among students in Germany. Although some assignments and online classes and may be conducted using a smartphone or tablet, I expect many will require the larger screens or horsepower of a PC. Tablets aren’t an immediate answer at hand: only 26% of students without home PCs use a tablet.

Elders

Elders are another group likely to remain at home. Although there are regional differences about the age level of persons mandated to remain at home, those requirements are changing quickly. For this analysis, I set the bar low for typical definitions of being an elder or senior – at 55 or older.

Within elders, I also investigated a particularly vulnerable group – elders living alone. This group is one of the most connected groups of all these groups, at least with respect to the penetration of home PCs. Only 5% of American elders and 2% of German elders don’t have a home PC.

Looking ahead

The conditions for COVID-19 pandemic are uncertain. I expect most employers to support their information workers with additional technology, even though historically that’s only been the case for the minority of employers.

For self-supporting information workers that already have a home PC, this employer support is most likely to come in the form of expanded software licensing to support employees that need special software to get their job done, and remote access software to allow employees to reach their office-located desktops, servers, or networks. In many cases, especially among larger employers or technically sophisticated employers, new support will include the requisite VPN and security software to help protect the employer’s confidential information. For those self-supporting information workers with home PCs that are too old or underpowered to support the employee’s needs, some employers may order and provide work PCs for their employee’s homes. Other employers may rely on the employees to personally obtain a home PC so the employee can continue to work.

For unsupported information workers that don’t have a home PC, I expect most employers to provide a work PC or to encourage or to reimburse their employees for a home PC. As for self-supporting information workers, additional software, connectivity, and likely printing capabilities will be needed as well.

This is a quickly changing time, and it’s currently unknown how long the stay-at-home/work-from-home provisions will remain in place. However, over the last two decades, technology users have shown a strong amount of habit energy and inertial. What they do with technology changes slowly, even while there are rapid shifts in the devices and services they use – and where they use them!

Inertia simultaneously saves and disrupts technological transformation. Scanners and printers with integrated scanners have been at the heart of the paper to digital change. So much that was paper is now electronic. The “paperless office” has been a hyped cliché for decades, and yet is truer with each passing year. Although electronic signatures have been legal for over 20 years in most countries, and digital copies are increasingly acceptable in many cases, the migration from paper to electronic lumbers along gradually. Consumers and businesses alike continue to need to convert hardcopy documents and images into electronic form.

About this TUPdate

The analysis in this TUPdate is based on results drawn from the TUP/Technology User Profile 2019 edition which is TUP’s 37th continuous wave. This survey-based study details the use of technology products by a carefully-selected and weighted set of respondents drawn to represent online adults.

Resources
Current TUP subscribers may request the supporting TUP information used for this analysis or for even deeper analysis. For more information about MetaFacts and subscribing to TUP, please contact MetaFacts.

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Filed under Basic cell phones, Cloud Storage, Communication, Desktops, Graphics and Image, Information and Search, Market Research, Notebooks, Smartphones, Tablets, TUP 2019, TUPdate, Usage Patterns, Video calling

Alone Americans – Overlooked Technology Users? [TUPdate]

Sometimes the slow-moving trends are the ones that get missed. Coupled with preconceived notions, these have the makings of blind spots. For many tech companies, single-person American households may be an overlooked market segment.

Based on research by the U.S. Census and our TUP/Technology User Profile service, 1-person American households are a sizable and growing segment with more to them than may be apparent at first. Also, they are not created equally, especially in which technology products and services they actively use.

Tech marketers often advertise with images of bustling families juggling their lives and devices. Soccer moms abound. This perpetuates a myth that’s leaving many out in the less connected and underserved cold. Furthermore, many companies from Amazon to Spotify and T-Mobile have created family plans that financially favor multi-person households, making their offerings less attractive to the many 1-person households.

While it makes sense for any marketers to focus on the biggest-seeming opportunities, and families are big tech consumers, sometimes this is done out of habit or custom, which may mean missing opportunities.

The number of single-person households has grown in share and number

The US Census reports that single-person households make up 28% of households in 2018, up substantially up from 13% in 1960. Similarly, the number of households has also grown, at 35.7 million in 2018, up from 6.9 million in 1960. Whether through preference or necessity, 1-person households are a substantial slice of the American market. Most forecasts indicate the share remaining stable for years to come.

On First Glance, 1-Person Households Seem Tech-Avoidant

When it comes to the devices Americans in 1-person households use, our TUP/Technology User Profile service shows that as a group, they’re behind the curve. American 1-person households appear to be languishing in technology’s past. They are 27% more likely than the average online American adult to still be using a home PC using Windows 7, the Microsoft operating systems nearing its end of life. The replacement for Windows Vista officially came off Microsoft’s mainstream support four years ago – in January 2015. Extended support has been available, yet that support is scheduled to be discontinued in less than one year, by January 2020. Also, 1-person households are well above average (22% higher than average) in their use of a home-owned basic feature phone.

In contrast, American households where children are present have well above-average rates of using many key devices – Windows tablets, game consoles, and Apple Notebooks. This simple view may clarify why some companies prefer to simply tailor their products and services to larger households and avoid smaller ones.

However, looking more deeply into 1-person households, there’s more than household size and core technology that reveals their differences.

A Deeper Look – Young and Old Singles

Within 1-person households, there’s a striking difference between younger and older adults in the profile of their technology usage. The highest usage index for Windows 7 home PCs is among older (age 35+) singles, at 48% higher than the national average. Similarly, there’s an index of 131 for use of a home-owned basic feature phone.

In stark contrast, among younger 1-person households, usage is strongly higher for many key technology devices: game consoles, Apple iPhones, Apple PCs (Macs), Apple notebooks, and Windows tablets.

However, age alone does not adequately describe 1-person households and their technology usage, nor does combining age and household size. There are yet other factors.

Size, Age, and Employment Status

Drilling down into the TUP/Technology User Profile results even more deeply, the combination of household size, age group, and employment status shows even stronger differences.

Have a job – part-time or full-time or even self-employed – and be younger than 40, and you’ll be among the highest technology adopters among 1-person households.

They are above average in using a Windows or Android Tablet, an Apple PC, iPhone, and game console.

The lowest technology adopters are those not employed outside the household and in 1-person households, both younger and older. These have the highest relative levels of using Windows 7 home PCs and home basic cell phones.

Family Plans Aren’t Only Used by Families

Interestingly, even while family/multi-person plans are ostensibly targeted at larger households, a substantial number of 1-person households are using them.

Nearly one-fourth (24%) of 1-person households have a smartphone plan with 2 or more lines. Similarly, “family” paid media subscriptions such as for music or TV are being used by 18% of America adults in 1-person households.

Looking ahead

Shifts in population may seem glacial especially by those in technology industries who are accustomed to frequent shifts. People change their living situations less quickly than they change their adoption of technology. Consequently, technology companies would be better served, as would 1-person households, to the extent these users are included in their offerings.

About this TUPdate

The analysis in this TUPdate is based on results drawn from the 2018 wave of TUP (Technology User Profile), which is TUP’s 36th continuous wave. This survey-based study details the use of technology products by a carefully-selected and weighted set of respondents drawn to represent online adults.

Resources
Current TUP subscribers may request the supporting TUP information used for this analysis or for even deeper analysis. For more information about MetaFacts and subscribing to TUP, please contact MetaFacts.

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Filed under Basic cell phones, Consumer research, Demographics & Econographics, Households, Market Research, Market Segmentation, Market Sizing, Notebooks, Smartphones, Tablets, TUP 2018, Usage Patterns