Understanding The State of the Digital Workplace

Matt Reardon, Associate Marketing Specialist
Posted on Dec 16, 2020

We’re unpacking the latest edition of CMSWire’s State of the Digital Workplace.

This year’s The State of the Digital Workplace report, published by CMSWire, has arrived at an incredibly unique time. Not only has a global pandemic drastically altered the way we work, but it has also shifted organizational priorities and the importance of effective digital technology. To illustrate the transformation, CMSWire surveyed 456 respondents in Q2 of 2020, and 254 respondents in Q3 of 2020. The respondents made up a variety of functions and job levels, and shed light on topics such as purchasing plan changes and the future outlook of remote work. The optimal digital workplace combines leadership, culture, technology, and practices to yield critical outcomes that positively impact both operational effectiveness and employee experience.

Understanding an organization's digital maturity

Digital maturity is the measure of how ready an organization is to understand and adapt consistently to digital changes. Highly mature organizations are roughly three times more likely than lower-mature organizations to report net profit margins and annual revenue growth. Digital maturity models evaluate how well companies have implemented digital technologies into their operating models, how effective they are at executing on digital initiatives, and their ability to acclimate to deficient technology, events, market trends, competitors, or other major factors – both culturally and operationally. A thorough assessment of digital maturity usually involves several months of stakeholder interviews, surveys, research, and analysis by digital experts within the company.

Not only has the pandemic changed how we work, but it has also changed how we learn and interact with our colleagues. In a flash, millions of people transitioned from full-time office work to remote work. The sudden change caused disruptions across many industries and organizations were forced to adopt new tools and technologies. In particular, new employees were thrust into digital learning environments, also known as e-learning. E-learning and self-help platforms have replaced traditional learning methods, and digital literacy has become a key skill for employees. Fifty-three percent of organizations indicated that e-learning is their primary method of employee education and training. In addition to learning skills that add value to an organization, employees have had to expand their digital competencies by leveraging e-learning tools and interactive support communities. In the future, digital learning will become a focal point of the employee onboarding process and new skill acquisition.

The following are methods survey respondents said are being used to raise digital literacy and improve the use of tools across their digital workplaces.

Pre-COVID trends

Before the outbreak, work was becoming increasingly portable and collaboration systems were becoming more prominent. Companies indicated that the shift to remote work was easier than expected, and very few believe there will be a complete return to pre-pandemic operations. In fact, 59% of respondents indicated that they were extremely satisfied with the shift to remote work, and another 35% said they were moderately satisfied. However, removing silos and increasing cross-team collaboration have emerged as challenges. Specifically, 59% of respondents stated that unified communication systems are very important, yet only 24% said their current systems were working well. Additionally, 42% of organizations listed digital workplace integration as a top priority.

2020 Q2 Top 5 Digital Workplace Priorities

2020 Q3 Top 5 Digital Workplace Priorities

A look at the impact of the pandemic and how it has altered the digital workplace

As we can attest, the past nine months have been of a new type of work. Here are six ways that the pandemic has impacted the workplace:

  1. A quick rise in digital workplace maturity. More organizations place value on the digital workplace – 51% of surveyed organizations indicated that their digital maturity grew from Q2 to Q3.
  2. A shift in challenges. In Q2, 29% of organizations said that company culture was a top challenge. In Q3, culture took a backseat to digital integration and cross-team collaboration as the top challenges. Companies are prioritizing technology processes over culture changes as a result of the pandemic.
  3. The shift to remote work was easier than expected. Existing technologies and processes enabled a smooth transition – 59% of organizations said they were extremely satisfied with their company’s transition.
  4. Purchasing plans were altered. Despite impacted budgets, only a minority of organizations put all purchases on hold. Most companies shifted their spending to better align with their remote work needs – 34% of organizations said that although they reduced spending in certain areas, they boosted spending in other areas.
  5. Remote work is likely here to stay. Few organizations believe there will be a complete return to pre-pandemic operations.
  6. The plans for a physical workplace. Despite the uncertainty surrounding when a safe return to the office will be possible, many organizations have begun to develop plans to return to a physical workplace. 100% of organizational respondents have some plan to return to the office, with 29% describing their plans as “advanced”.

Shifts from Q2 to Q3

The shift to remote work has necessitated a dependency on remote work technologies such as intranets and integrated communication channels. As a result, many organizations have increased their investments in these areas.

  • 29% of respondents said they would increase spending on technologies that were being used in limited capacities to boost scale and usage.
  • 23% of respondents indicated they would invest in technologies that hadn’t been used before.

In Q2, the biggest challenges facing organizations were budget constraints and culture. 33% of respondents listed budget constraints as their biggest challenge, whereas 16% indicated that culture was their greatest obstacle. The trend continued in Q3 as 41% noted budget constraints as their top challenge, and 24% said culture was an issue.

CMSWire found that over the last four years, there has been a steady increase of organizations formalizing a digital workplace strategy or program. Greater awareness of digital workplace concepts among IT departments and investments in cloud technologies have driven the growth of digital strategies.

Looking ahead to what is next for the workplace

Remote work has helped companies grow. CMSWire noted that organizations who responded that the digital workplace is “extremely or very important” grew 8% from 2019 to 2020. Moreover, 56% of organizations in 2020 rank the digital workplace as an important priority. The trend illustrates that companies are becoming more digitally mature and remote work technologies have never been more important. Today, it is crucial to have digital tools and training that are up to date and working effectively to enhance productivity and keep your team connected.

Where are companies with plans to return to the physical workplace?

  • 29% say they are in the advanced stage: a complete plan to return is in place, and only expect to make minor tweaks
  • 51% are in the intermediate stage: a partial return plan in place, expected to make changes as the situation develops
  • 20% are in the beginning stage: currently thinking through contingencies

Stay tuned for more around the State of the Digital Workplace. Interested in learning how Imarc can support your digital workplace? Let's talk!

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