Enterprise, Technology

Global business leaders are re-thinking how they work due to COVID-19 pandemic: study

ServiceNow has released The Work Survey, one of the most comprehensive global surveys to date on COVID-19’s impact on work and the opportunities ahead for a wave of digital innovation in how people work and businesses operate.

Executives and employees across the globe agree technology enabled them to pivot to new ways working faster than thought possible, and digital transformation will accelerate innovation.

“The world’s dramatic pivot to working digitally is showing everyone what the future of work looks like,” said ServiceNow CEO Bill McDermott. “Digital workflows are the way business gets done in the 21st century. There’s no going back. Digital transformation will accelerate. New ways of working will become the norm. We are on the cusp of an unprecedented wave of workflow and workplace innovation.”

Fielded in September by Wakefield Research on behalf of ServiceNow, The Work Survey engaged 9,000 executives and employees across industries including financial services, health care, telecommunications, manufacturing, and the public sector.

Key global findings include:

  • 92 percent of executives say the pandemic made their company rethink how they work and 87 percent of employees say their company has created better ways of working since the crisis began.
  • 91 percent of executives and 87 percent of employees say their company transitioned to new ways of working faster than they thought possible.
  • COVID-19 has reduced operating expenses for 88 percent of global businesses surveyed, creating opportunities for investments in digital transformation, research and development, marketing and growth.

Businesses have innovated rapidly but will need to step up to continue the pace

Half of executives (50 percent) and a little over half of employees (53 percent) think transitioning to the new normal will be even more challenging than the initial shock of COVID-19. This challenge is exacerbated because most businesses are at a digital disadvantage, with 91 percent of global executives admitting they still have offline workflows, including document approvals, security incident reports, and technology support requests. Progress has been made, but months into working from home, 60 percent of executives and 59 percent of employees say their companies still do not have a fully integrated system to manage digital workflows.

Despite adapting to COVID-19, confidence is low that companies could rapidly transform again

New systems that were developed, and put in place on the fly, as a result of COVID-19, were seen to have created new and better ways of working by 87 percent of employees across the globe. However, such systems are felt to still be vulnerable to the next major disruption, with most executives and employees stating that key business functions (such as Customer Service, HR and Finance) would not be able to adapt within 30 days in the event of another disruption. This showcases the need, and opportunity, for robust digital transformation across the enterprise.

You’re only as good as your people; winning today means embracing distributed work better and faster than the competition

While executives (99 percent) and employees (94 percent) overwhelmingly tout the benefits of remote working, the challenges are becoming more apparent. Both executives (93 percent) and employees (83 percent) express real concerns about how remote work will impact the business moving forward. The biggest concerns and benefits with continued remote work depends on where you sit.

  • Across the globe, executives are most worried about outputs—delays in product or service delivery (54 percent), while their employees are most concerned about the inputs—reduced collaboration between business units (48 percent).
  • Employees across the globe say that time saved from not commuting or travelling to a workplace (54 percent) has benefited them most, while executives believe that better use of technology to improve efficiency (50 percent) is the greatest benefit to their teams.

Personal safety is paramount: Resuming in-person work hinges on whether employees feel safe

Sixty percent of employees believe their company will prioritise business continuity over workplace safety. More surprising is the fact that 44 percent of executives actually believe this as well. Even if a company makes an effort to put safety first, many employees don’t think they can pull it off, with 46 percent of surveyed employees saying they do not believe their company will take the necessary steps to ensure their safety. Surprisingly, executives agree. Nearly a third of global executives (32 percent) admit they don’t think their company will take the appropriate steps for safety.

“COVID-19 caused businesses across the region to change at a pace, the like of which we have never seen before and, if honest, many didn’t think was even possible” said Mark Ackerman, regional director – Middle East & Africa, ServiceNow. “There is much talk of adapting to a new normal, but the reality for most businesses is there is just the now, and the constant change that comes with it. The critical challenge for organisations will be balancing the immediate need for business continuity, with the personal needs of their employees, and ensuring they have the digital skills and resources to face the waves of change yet to come. Focussing on digitising the work that needs to get done, wherever that needs to happen, is a key first step in creating this balance.“

Commenting on the findings, applied futurist and author, Tom Cheesewright, said, “This research comes at an opportune moment as companies begin the transition from the early chaos of the COVID-19 response to the creation of new sustainable approaches. Some incredible things were achieved under extreme pressure and core hybrid working technologies have been proven. But much work remains. Layers of culture, process and behaviour need to be designed and overlaid on the technological foundations together with a new social contract agreed between employer and employee that embraces distributed working.”

More information about The Work Survey can be found here.

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