The pandemic made PCs better – here’s how

Microsoft surface laptop go 2
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Many companies had to quickly adapt when the world moved to remote work, at one point practically overnight, thus accelerating the digital transformation of many workplaces. PCs, and in particular laptops and tablets, became our anywhere office, vital for keeping us connected.

About the author

Chris Lorigan, Portfolio Product Manager, Microsoft UK.

Our studies show 14% of respondents worked from home before the pandemic, a number which shot up to 68% among respondents during the initial waves of lockdowns in early 2020. As such, we all became more reliant on our PCs, which became one of the most important devices at home, while the activities that soon became ‘pandemic staples’ such as calls to loved ones, online quizzes, learning, as well as remote work and virtual meetings have all since influenced the evolution of the PC as we know it today.

Initial investments made by IT decision makers (ITDMs) enabled previously office-bound workers to continue operations remotely – but routine device upgrade cycles were temporarily shelved for staff who were already equipped or could easily pivot to remote operations. Overall, 25% of these employees were given a new device, but only 19% received the device as part of a routine upgrade cycle.

However, many workers made do with the device they were already operational on, at a time where staying connected was more vital than the quality of the connection itself. Indeed, findings show that a majority of employees with a work-related, company owned laptop/tablet have been using the same one since the onset of COVID-19. With workers and students needing to transition their former offices to the home and families trying to cope with the requirements of online learning, PCs experienced a rocket in sales.

Research by Statista found that PC shipments rose in a meaningful way for the first time in a decade in 2020. With a high demand, and short supply, many were focused on just staying operational.

Consequently, many old devices that workers ‘made do’ on, PC’s that were simply deployed to just survive and equip the mobilization of the remote workforce (and country), are not necessarily serving the needs of today’s evolved hybrid workforce.

The PCs being designed and developed today are evolving having gathered all the learnings from lockdown and are being designed conscious of a new era – hybrid work.

The renaissance of the PC

The PC you buy today is different from that you would have selected, or been provided from your company, even a year ago. As lockdowns have eased and we’ve transitioned to a hybrid way of work and life, employees, ITDMs, and indeed many PC makers have started to consider if the devices and technology used during the pandemic are now actually serving the needs of the today’s workforce.

Many devices that were built and distributed during the pandemic served immediate needs, but today, ITDMs are beginning once more to plan longer term, and there is a renewed sense of buy best, buy once. As many companies are evolving their flexible work strategies, the features and elements we need from our devices have shifted once again.

Microsoft’s Device Decisions report echoes the changing considerations in IT for the workplace. Research has shown that more than a third of employers who received new devices since the onset of COVID-19 reported a resulting increase in their productivity. This further ties into the power of a new device in also keeping employees motivated, with a majority believing that having the right device for their role helps them to maintain a healthy work-life balance, enabling them to get the work they need done, seamlessly, and in good time, to then log off and do the things that matter to them.

The future of the PC

Over the last two years, the PC staged a pandemic-inspired comeback, with the industry recording its highest growth figures in a decade, and this COVID-induced revival is expected to continue as flexible work and the return to the office continues to take center stage.

Analysts have argued that the pandemic saw the rebirth of the PC and the overall PC market has reset at a much higher level than before the pandemic. To power flexible working, users have demanded increased battery-life, greater reliability and ultimately devices that are versatile and adaptable, transforming to fit employees and organization's changing needs.

The world of work has changed dramatically, perhaps irrevocably, but one thing is certain: flexible work is here to stay. While the renewed renaissance of the PC may subside, its legacy lives on, with the pandemic leaving its mark as machines have been built for a new era. The future of PCs will no doubt continue to be geared towards enabling users to achieve, from any location, in the hybrid world.

How to work from home: everything you need for remote working.

Surface Portfolio Product Manager, Microsoft UK

Chris Lorigan, Portfolio Product Manager, Microsoft UK.