Gone are the days of countless cubicles packed together, open-plan offices with employees sitting elbow to elbow, and conference rooms filled with pens and papers. Whether we were ready for it or not, the coronavirus pandemic thrust us into the next stage of the employment journey to a fully digital working world. As the planet went remote, companies still relying on outdated tools, such as paper files and fax machines, were forced to figure out how to take their work online.
What did these digital changes look like, and how did the transformations impact companies’ success? Did employee satisfaction plummet with the implementation of new technology? We surveyed over 1,000 employees – asking these questions and more. Read on to see how digital changes have impacted businesses and employees during the COVID-19 health crisis.
Resisting the shift to a digital workplace is actually counterproductive to companies’ success. Indeed, companies that are set in their ways waste 1,500 hours each year working inefficiently. Of course, switching to a digital workplace will come with a learning curve, but the efficiency, productivity, and success that will follow are worth waiting for. And our study found just that.
When comparing pre-pandemic business to present day, 34% of employees said their company saw a better or much better difference in sales, with midsized companies the most likely to see positive change. On the digital side, 74% of companies shifted more or much more online, and it’s no coincidence midsize companies were also the most likely to make the change.
However, the switch to a more digital workplace is only one factor – workforce size may also play a role. In the year of layoffs, it’s no surprise nearly 40% of businesses reported having less staff now than pre-pandemic. Companies with just 10 to 49 employees were the most likely to report a smaller workforce since the pandemic’s onset, while midsized companies with 50 to 99 employees were the most likely to report a larger workforce than pre-pandemic times.
From implementing instant messaging to increase team connections from afar, software to track productivity, or digital upgrades to boost consumer experience, every company has different digital goals. The majority of our respondents (57%) said one of their company’s digital priorities was improving customer experiences, while 45% mentioned sales and marketing. Market growth and expansion, along with operations and service delivery improvement, were also frequently mentioned priorities.
As with almost every aspect of business, digital priorities varied by company size. Large companies with over 500 employees were significantly more likely to report operations and service delivery improvement and talent sourcing and employee experience as priorities, compared to small businesses with less than 10 employees. These smaller companies were the most likely to name improving customer experience, sales and marketing, and new products and services as top priorities.
While a digital transformation of the workforce has been long underway, the COVID-19 pandemic has made digital proficiency an urgent need. Fortunately, a whopping 88% of employees said their company was at least moderately proficient with technology, with just 2% reporting their company to be not at all proficient. Like previously mentioned trends, midsized businesses with 50 to 99 employees were the most likely to self-identify as extremely or very proficient with technology.
Despite pandemic pressure causing companies to go remote, companies with the highest digital proficiency were the most likely to increase their online presence. As technology proficiency decreased, so too did the likelihood of the company going online during the pandemic. But not taking work online was detrimental to some companies’ success. While the most proficient companies saw the most significant increase in sales, the least proficient companies saw the most significant decrease in sales when compared to pre-pandemic times.
Looking at the most proficient companies as a guide, nearly 70% focused on expanding their digital presence on Facebook and using digital implementations to focus on training current employees. While challenges were less common, the biggest challenge very and extremely tech proficient companies faced was cultural resistance to change, lack of budget or financial commitment, and a shortage of digital skills and talent.
Following the lead of highly tech proficient companies, Facebook was the top social media platform companies of all sizes focused on during the pandemic. Despite Instagram and Snapchat seeing the greatest sustained boosts in usage during the health crisis, less than half of employees (49%) reported their company as focusing on Instagram, while only 12% noted a focus on Snapchat.
Even during a year of shaking job security, workplace changes, and millions of layoffs, only 3% of all respondents reported being not at all satisfied with their job. And the secret to satisfaction seemed to be work-life balance. Ninety-nine percent of employees reporting an extremely and very well maintained work-life balance said they were at least slightly satisfied with their job. In contrast, 31% of those failing to maintain a good work-life balance reported a complete lack of satisfaction with their job.
Unsurprisingly, technological proficiency also played a role in work-life balance. In the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lack of tech proficiency means longer days and personal time spent learning the ways of the digital world. Therefore, it makes sense that those who were not at all proficient with technology were the most likely to report no job satisfaction.
However, the line was not drawn at personal tech proficiency. How prepared companies were to handle digital efforts, enthusiasm about moving digital, and companies’ tech proficiency also played major roles in job satisfaction. Across all factors, the most prepared, enthusiastic, and proficient employees were also the most satisfied.
Job satisfaction may have been high among most respondents, but that doesn’t mean they are interested in sticking around much longer. Only 22% of employees said they were not at all interested in seeking a different job, whereas 36% were extremely or very interested.
Notably, employees with the highest level of enthusiasm for digital efforts were also the most likely to be extremely or very interested in looking for a new job. On the other hand, lack of tech proficiency on the employee’s side and the company’s side coincided with an increased likelihood of interest in finding a new job. And even though younger generations are typically said to be more tech proficient than their older counterparts, 37% of millennials and 38% of Gen Xers were among those extremely or very interested in seeking a new job.
Businesses have been preparing for an increasingly digital workforce for years, but nobody could have anticipated the digital rush brought on by the pandemic. Forced into remote work and in-person closures, businesses of all sizes shifted their operations more online. Among the most technologically proficient companies, digital priorities to focus on included everything from improving customer experience to financial viability and predictability. Some employees fared better than others: Companies that were not prepared to move online or simply lacked proficiency in technology saw a more marked decrease in sales and employee satisfaction with many workers considering looking for a new job. Transitioning to a digital age clearly has a learning curve, and companies that aren’t willing – or able – to ride the wave may have consequences to face.
Skynova provides businesses with online software that makes it easier to produce and keep track of necessary documents like invoices, accounting, and time sheets. In conjunction with our services, we also produce in-depth articles about various topics to keep our customers up to date with the latest business or workplace topics. While we cover that content thoroughly, our articles also include intersections of technology, politics, sports, and health. Our articles are based on statistical, research-backed surveys conducted by ourselves to provide readers with the right information from a potentially new perspective.
We collected 1,030 responses from Americans who reported being employed full or part time via Amazon Mechanical Turk. About 49% of our participants were men, and 50% were women. Participants ranged in age from 19 to 81 with a mean of 37 and a standard deviation of 11 years. Those who were students, homemakers, or not currently employed were excluded from this survey. As categorized by estimated employee count, approximately 8% of our respondents reported being employed by a micro-business, 18% by a small business, 24% by a midsized business, 21% by a large business, and 28% by an extra-large business. Generational breakdown was about 9% baby boomer or older, 25% Gen X, 60% millennial, and 5% Gen Z.
Survey data has certain limitations related to self-reporting. These limitations include telescoping, exaggeration, and selective memory. We did not weight our data or statistically test our hypotheses. This was a purely exploratory project that examines perceptions of businesses’ digital shifts due to COVID-19.
COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the working world. Help employees face the shift to a digital workplace by sharing this study for noncommercial purposes. All we ask is that you include a link back to this page so our contributors receive proper credit.