The home PC has been a central part of the American technology user’s world for years, and while remaining so for many, the home PC is slowly losing its primacy among some market segments.
Home PCs have been challenged by the emerging use of smartphones and tablets, and not only among younger Americans. Older Americans have also rapidly adopted smartphones and are starting to discover how to use them well. Home PC makers, software developers, and service providers have worked hard to keep the home PC as a central device, or at least one that is included.
The home PC is not down and out – not by a long shot. The humble PC is in use by most online Americans. In 2020, 75% of online adults in the US actively use a home PC. From 2015 to 2019, this level was effectively flat at 80%.
In our TUP/Technology User Profile 2020 survey, we found that the majority of home notebooks are only used within the home. This is based on 8,034 online adults across Japan, the UK, Germany, the US, China, and India. Although home notebooks are sold with the ability to be carried to many locations, most stay home, only venturing between rooms of the user’s home.
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Are you reading this from home? That makes you one of the 391 million of online adults working remotely we found in our TUP/Technology User Profile survey across 6 countries. If you are like the average employee around the world, you are also reading this on your own PC, tablet, or smartphone, and not one provided by your employer.
Home PCs are the new work PC.
Insights professionals in the tech industry already know from personal experience about working remotely. It was not too long ago that many researchers would be balancing notebooks on their knees in darkened focus group viewing rooms while reaching for another M&M or two. (Not that there’s anything wrong with M&M’s). However, most of the world’s employees do not have experience as remote workers, nor are they set up properly.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.