Consumer Tech Trends Embrace Security, Hybrid Work

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Economic uncertainty and hybrid and remote work drive many of today’s workplace trends, the fourth annual Deloitte Connected Consumer survey found. The report’s results about employee behavior can help business leaders retain employees by meeting them where they want to be, whether physically or in terms of how they use technology in everyday life.

For tech company leaders, changes in consumer behavior show that people want strong security and up-to-date — but not overwhelming — devices and services.

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Slightly more employees prefer remote work in 2023 over 2022

Employees’ preference for remote work rose slightly (by 7%) year-over-year. In 2023, most workers cited their reasons for preferring hybrid work being better relationships with family and coworkers as well as improved health and well-being. Remote work is one of many “virtual experiences” people have hung onto since the start of the pandemic, Deloitte found.

More than half of the people surveyed worked remotely at least some of the time over the last year. From that experience, some remote workers have said communication, culture, distractions and stress have become less challenging when they work remotely. Two-thirds of people who attended work or school remotely said they would like to have the option to continue to attend remotely or in a hybrid fashion in the future. (Both work and school were counted together.)

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In 2023, employers who are asking remote workers to return to the office sometimes offer hybrid schedules to ease the transition, Deloitte found. Fifty-six percent of employed adults they surveyed work from home sometimes, while 22% work from home all of the time, 34% have a set hybrid schedule and 44% work in the office all of the time.

The hybrid work schedules companies set are roughly commensurate with what hybrid workers usually do: Most hybrid workers spend 3 days in the office and 2.6 at home, according to the averaged statistics.

Hybrid and remote workers need easy access to information

Despite employees’ preference for working remotely, problems with remote work do persist. Employees list technology and connectivity, including access to the information they need, as downsides of remote work. To accommodate remote workers, companies need up-to-date tools and systems, and information should be well-organized and easily accessible.

In addition to potential issues with technology and connectivity, hybrid workers report trouble with collaborating, being distracted by nonwork activities, and having a hard time prioritizing their well-being. As a result, hybrid workers are more likely to experience stress and burnout than other workers.

“Juggling two different kinds of daily work patterns and household routines that vary depending on the day (like arranging for dependent care that varies from day to day) may prove difficult,” Paul Silverglate, vice chair of Deloitte LLP and U.S. Technology sector, told TechRepublic in an email. “And it’s not hard to be caught in the ‘wrong place at the wrong time’ (e.g., an important meeting happens on a day they’ve arranged to work at home).”

Silverglate says business leaders should expect an adjustment period for employers and employees moving to a hybrid work model. For tech decision-makers in particular, hybrid workers may be able to collaborate better if they have the right communication tools, remote team management tools and virtual office software.

Consumers are streamlining device ownership

Consumers are using fewer devices in 2023 than in 2022. On average, each household possesses 21 digital devices in the household — down from 25 devices in 2021. Among consumers, 63% of people predict their spending on devices won’t change over the next year, 7% predict their spending will decrease and 9% predict it will increase.

For enterprise tech decision-makers, this could be a sign that while people want the newest tools, they don’t want to be overwhelmed by those tools. Tech companies should keep in mind that their customers are thinking about how to balance the benefits of an always-online life against the downsides.

For instance, the top reasons customers got rid of devices were that another device replaced the older one’s functionality, that the devices were too costly or were outdated.

Money woes contribute

Customers may reduce their spending on devices because of economic worries. Many (49%) consumers put off buying new devices in the past 12 months due to economic conditions. Some (33%, up from 25% in 2022) feel they don’t have enough funds to buy devices their household needs.

High inflation, the risk of a recession and personal financial woes all affect purchasing. Across business sectors, this economic stress leads executives to prioritize increasing margins and grow revenues, Deloitte pointed out in the 2023 Technology Industry Outlook.

“Other ways that tech companies appear to be streamlining expenses include adjusting their real estate spend to align with new hybrid work models (which are growing in popularity), reducing energy costs where possible, and rolling out AI tools to boost efficiency,” said Silverglate.

With customers closing their wallets, device makers can choose between different approaches, Silverglate said.

“They have an opportunity to pack good features into cheaper models, to attract consumers who feel economic pressure, and/or they can share exciting advances on the high end for consumers who may be waiting to pull the trigger on buying a premium device,” he said.

Protecting data should be a top priority

Customer confidence in technology companies securing their data has decreased. In 2022, 50% of surveyed consumers worried about their devices being vulnerable to security breaches. In 2023, that number grew slightly to 58%. Another 58% of customers worried people or organizations could track them through their devices, a jump up from 41% in 2022.

“Tech companies should double-down on efforts to shore up consumer trust in their devices and services,” Deloitte wrote in the report. “For example, by enhancing data security measures, communicating transparently about their data-handling practices and giving consumers more choice over how their data is used.”

Half (50%) of respondents feel the benefits of online services make up for their data privacy concerns.

“Trust is often a negotiation,” said Silverglate. “If the benefits are clear enough to users — and the risks low enough — they may be willing to share the kinds of data needed to power the next generation of intelligent devices and services.”

Silverglate recommended the following steps for tech providers to improve trust without over-promising:

  • Enhancing data security measures on devices and for online services, and making it easier for consumers to understand how to protect themselves from threat actors.
  • Being more transparent about the device company’s data-handling practices (e.g., the data they collect, how long they keep it and why).
  • Giving consumers more choices over how their data is used, and easier ways to opt out or refine that use.
  • Giving consumers incentives to share data, such as perks or loyalty programs.
  • Considering whether generative AI could be used in future products/services to tailor privacy and data sharing to suit each person’s comfort level.

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This post originally appeared on TechToday.