Supporting hybrid workers is key to safeguarding staff and company culture, writes Ryan Purvis, Head of Solutions, Lakeside Software
The future of work is a topic that has plagued leaders and employees alike in recent years. The constant pivoting, transitioning to fully remote or hybrid work, and the rapid social change revealed cracks in the foundation of how we are getting work done, and employees felt the strain.
One crack in many company’s foundations is the expediency and fluency with which they adapted to emerging technologies. These technologies are a central part of getting work done efficiently and effectively. The key to creating better digital workplaces always played a significant role in work productivity, but never more than it has now. Previously, employees relied on their computers, a steady internet connection at the office, and an IT team in the back office in case something went awry. With these things in place, staff were able to accomplish the majority of their work.
Now, the game has changed. The future of work hinges on this key factor: digital employee experience (DEX). The smoother the digital experience, the more productive employees can be. Conversely, the harder it is to access and use workplace technology, the less workers can do, the less productive they feel, and the worse their job performance becomes (which can negatively impact their mental health and their careers long-term).
More than a year spent supporting remote workers since the outbreak of Covid-19 has given companies a crash course in the urgency of digital employee experience, but unfortunately, many IT departments are still lagging behind. The pace at which digital transformation took place in early 2020 was astounding, but now, many companies that set up “band-aid” solutions for remote work haven’t updated to long-term solutions, and the band-aids are starting to fall off.
Immediate action is needed to support remote workers moving forward because remote work has moved from being a perk to a necessity.
Remote and hybrid work is here to stay.
How Work-From-Anywhere Changed the IT Landscape
The digital employee experience is intertwined with the success of a company’s IT department. When employees encounter digital disruption and friction, it brings unnecessary stress to their day and negatively impacts their work. Compounded over time, this friction can become a serious problem. Companies are in danger of the breakdown of culture and hemorrhaging staff with the rise of the work-from-anywhere model when this is not addressed with a clear IT strategy to safeguard employee satisfaction.
At the onset of the pandemic, when many employees began to work remotely for the first time, companies might have sent them a laptop and asked them to download a workplace communication platform such as Slack, but for the most part, it ended there. Sometimes, people were stuck at home without a working office, turning their bedroom or personal living space into a workspace, and sharing WiFi connections with others in the house. This was stressful enough—add in shoddy software, ineffective project management systems, and breakdowns of digital tools, and it is enough for employees to throw in the towel altogether.
Focusing on employees’ end-user experience and understanding their issues is the key to unlocking the additional issues thrown up by working from anywhere, including the erosion of trust between workers and bosses, a nosedive in productivity, or security issues. These disruptions impact more than the workers themselves. According to surveyed employees, poor digital employee experience has caused other far-reaching problems, including less collaboration, difficulty completing some job aspects, inability to meet the needs of customers, and missed deadlines/slower time to market for deliverables. The IT landscape plays a pivotal role in all of these employee needs.
The DEX Divide
A divide between the DEX and their employer’s perception of that experience exists in organisations across industries. While DEX is a pressing priority, it has not yet translated into urgent action. Almost half of C-level respondents say their companies don’t even measure the quality of their employees’ digital experience—and roughly 40% of IT respondents admit that their department does not track it whatsoever.
So what is the impetus for tracking digital experience? Ultimately, an increase in productivity lowered turnover rates and increased revenue. The noticeable gap between IT departments’ assessment of the current DEX and the employee’s view of that experience only leaves room for things to fall through the cracks and makes things more difficult for the organisation. According to one report, 66% of employees believe that time to resolve tech problems has negatively impacted their ability to work. This causes a fundamental misalignment that makes it impossible to establish a unified DEX baseline for everyone to work from and makes room for blindspots, disruptions, and a loss of productivity as a whole.
How Efficient IT Can Relieve Employee Stress and Improve Productivity
Ultimately, company and IT department leaders need to recognise this gap and understand that the initial cost of investing in better IT systems and technologies for their employees will only benefit the organisation long term. Investment in the DEX comes with an initial cost that pales in comparison to the accompanying increases in productivity and employee satisfaction. Research shows that 67% of IT leaders say DEX is a critical priority but nearly half of C-suite leaders say it’s not measured. In the same research, CEOs found a 12.1% revenue increase and 18.1% cost reduction was possible with a significantly improved digital experience.
If these statistics aren’t enough, think about what the long-term stress of your employees can do to your business. No one wants to fall victim to the Great Resignation. The priority must be the long-term betterment of your business, not the short-term financial benefit of withholding spending on better infrastructure.
Companies need to focus on the well-being of their employees in the “work from anywhere” model, or they risk losing them. IT can help mitigate this risk by using effective technologies and digital tools in order to optimize the end-user experience for remote workers and help them work from anywhere without having to shoulder the stress an IT department normally would.