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Study: Future of work & digital transformation
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Study: Future of work & digital transformation

The pandemic upended life as we knew it. Most of us experienced the abrupt shift in the way we work, learn and connect, with blurring lines between office and home. The shift to working from home prompted digital transformation at an exceptional pace, fast-tracking the development of new technologies in response to changing demands. COVID-19 has both challenged and inspired companies to address work challenges from remote collaboration to IT security. It has also been a reset and renewal for the overall employee experience, including IT, real estate, HR and the workforce. While the future of work continues to evolve, the focus on a more engaged and fulfilled workforce will outlast the pandemic.

To better understand this transformation, Lenovo recently conducted a study that looked at the behaviors and attitudes of global knowledge workers and IT decision-makers across companies of all sizes that have moved to remote work. Lenovo's Future of Work and Digital Transformation study confirmed our suspicions – that for many, the traditional office as we once knew it, is gone. Workplaces are transforming radically and most employees are satisfied with the shift from their old office routines.

What worked well for remote work

Now, a year into the "new normal," it might be easy to forget the complex challenges companies had to quickly address to enable a successful, remote-work environment. Companies had to ensure employees had the right technology and collaboration software to successfully perform their jobs. In fact, "The Future of Work and Digital Transformation" study found a whopping 97% of survey respondents used collaboration tools with 66% of respondents agreeing collaboration tools improved productivity and efficiency. Companies tapped into new ways of using their existing tech such as increased usage of personal devices for work. The same study found 79% of respondents used a smartphone for work tasks, with over half using their personal phones. According to Microsoft's recently published Work Trend Index, they found that nearly half (46%) of remote workers planned to move to a new location, because they were working remotely so effectively. There is a tremendous need and opportunity to address these newfound remote perspectives through enhanced technologies, such as AI noise cancellation, eye care for natural low blue light from displays, 5G and voice enablement amplification for richer collaboration.


Which new tech service was tested

To ease the burden of cost or time spent on internal processes, companies have turned to their trusted technology partners for support with future-proofing their business. The combination of a fully remote staff now leveraging personal tech adds a new level of complexity that companies have not faced before. Companies are looking for solutions that equip employees with easy IT and security help from home. Our study showed a significant interest in Device-as-a-Service (DaaS) tools, which keep hardware up to date while freeing up IT teams' time for more strategic projects. While 63% of companies are interested in DaaS, only 10% of businesses currently use it in this new subscription service, representing the untapped potential of DaaS and its role within a company's digital transformation.

Why empathy matters more than ever (and how tech plays a part)

As a global technology company, we have seen technology fuel flexibility and greater emotional intelligence through the pandemic. Our New Realities project research reinforced the need for more empathy: Two-thirds of the 15,000 respondents agreed that technology has made them more empathetic toward different viewpoints in their communities and beyond. The pandemic has physically kept us apart in many ways, but we take heart in the fact that technology can bring us together. I believe that companies need to take note — we can create a culture of empathy to help address employees' most pressing needs. For working parents, there has been an obvious shift around distance learning, child care and finding a solution that works for their family. Employee support means allowing flexible schedules, and sometimes requires companies to proactively create solutions. For example, Lenovo provides resources through Bright Horizons, a U.S.-based child-care provider, to help establish back-up child care, emergency child care and elder care, as well as some tools for learning opportunities.

As companies navigate the shift to the next phase of their work model, it's important to re-think multiple dimensions of the employee experience, including the role of the campus, workplace safety, collaboration solutions, connectivity and data security, employee privacy and more.

As hybrid models flourish, the office will have a more focused purpose for bringing people together when needed.

Microsoft's 2021 Work Trend Index also reinforced this need for empathy, especially among younger generations relatively new to the workforce. The index revealed that 60% of those between the ages of 18 and 25 say they are surviving or flat-out struggling in today's current work environment. They had difficulties remaining engaged and a lack of excitement in remote work. From our own Gen Z user experience study, we know there's a lot to learn about this generation who are starting to enter the workforce. One of our goals at Lenovo is to better understand their relationship with technology to help them feel more engaged and included. Ultimately, all companies will need to grapple with how to offer a good employee experience — for all employees.


Ignore the employee experience at your own peril

Global technology communities have a responsibility to collectively develop solutions that drive change and support people. Our empathy research found almost half (45%) of respondents believe technology companies need to change post-COVID to be more empathetic and help close the empathy gap.

Companies will need to maintain flexibility within the employee experience and reset their approach and goals across IT, HR and real estate. Employers must find a balance between fixed schedules and employee autonomy and wellbeing; a local versus globally diverse workforce; traditional IT device deployment versus do-it-yourself (DIY) portals and DaaS shipments; local apps versus cloud services; security and privacy. The new hybrid environment will call for design spaces that are scalable, moveable and cleanable, as well as solutions that facilitate both working from the office and from anywhere.

As we continue to heal and recover from the pandemic, the lines between work and life will remain blurred. We'll see movement toward evolved technology, flexibility and greater empathy for our workforce. We want employees to make the most of both work and life.

And for companies that do not prioritize their employee experience? Do so at your own risk.