Future of Digital Work Enterprise insights: Productivity is a shared responsibility rooted in tech

Group of people meeting around a desk.

Enterprises have undergone historic changes over the past three years, not the least of which is the shift toward hybrid work. According to our newest cut of “The Future of Digital Work” global research which surveyed over 4500 enterprise senior leaders and employees across the US, UK, Australia, India, and Japan, most of the global workforce (61 percent) is not back in the office full-time, with 45 percent adopting a hybrid schedule. Hybrid work isn’t without its challenges, and opportunities to ensure success will depend on how enterprises tackle productivity. The research reports that nearly a third (30 percent) of workers say that hybrid work is still negatively impacting their productivity.

Defining productivity in the enterprise

It’s helpful to begin with understanding what productivity means to enterprise leaders and workers. According to the research, the attribute that employees (47 percent) and enterprise leaders (40 percent) associate most with productivity is doing work that’s more impactful, rather than solely working faster, doing more work, doing more with less, or generating income.

Now more than ever, external factors are impacting productivity. A significant majority (72 percent) of enterprise leaders acknowledge that economic pressures and civil unrest are hurting productivity at work. Their employees reported top concerns as: #1 the high cost of living, #2 the possibility of inflations, and #3 wage disparity. In the US in particular, workers are most concerned about the possibility of a recession with more than 2/3 (67 percent) saying it’s impacting their productivity at work.

Technology is the problem and the opportunity

While companies can’t do much to impact how external factors are hurting employee productivity, they can do a lot more to provide them with the right technologies to give employees a competitive edge.

A near-unanimous number of employees (87 percent) and tech leaders (89 percent) acknowledge that poor technologies are hurting the company’s productivity with more than half of tech leaders (58 percent) going as far as to say that poor tech is ‘killing’ their company’s productivity and costing them between 2 to four hours a day in lost productivity. Employees are similarly exasperated with more than 1/3 (35 percent) of employees wanting to scrap their work tech altogether.

The impact of poor technology goes beyond lost productivity as well. Technology leaders estimate that nearly a quarter (24 percent) of their company’s employees are considering quitting in the next six months due to poor work technology.

So, what can companies do with technology to boost productivity? According to the research, automation, artificial intelligence, and interestingly, digital documents are areas that companies should invest in.

Artificial intelligence and automation are seen as having an almost universally positive impact on work. A near-unanimous number of workers (92 percent) reported that AI technology is having a positive impact — with more than a quarter (26 percent) going as far as to call it a ‘miracle.’ They reported the top productivity gains of AI as #1 saving time (67 percent), #2 helping employees work faster (61 percent), and #3 reducing or eliminating boring or tedious work (45 percent). Nearly half (41 percent) of workers who use AI reported that “AI has completely changed how I work for the better.”

In an era where video and collaboration tools seem to dominate enterprise work, digital documents are still seen as work critical — in fact the most critical. Global workers in the survey ranked digital documents like PDFs that can be created, edited, reviewed, and collaborated on in Adobe Acrobat as the #1 technology they ‘can’t live without,’ above video conferencing tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams (#2), and messaging tools like Slack (#3). Despite the importance of digital documents among workers, most (60 percent) technology leaders say at least half of their company’s work is still paper based, with about 1/3 of workers reporting that paper-based work — like managing a mix of digital and paper documents (35 percent), collaborating using paper documents (33 percent), and printing paper documents (29 percent) is hurting their productivity.

Productivity is a shared responsibility

The research suggests that employees are deeply invested in helping their companies support them with the right technologies — they seem themselves as part of the solution. In fact, over half (60 percent) of employees reported that productivity at work is primarily their responsibility, with technology leaders and their managers playing supporting roles. When technology is hurting their productivity, employees will take action, including: 1) Look for better solutions and recommend them to their employers and 2) Encourage their organizations to invest in better technologies.

It’s incumbent on leadership to take notice because great tech attracts great talent. A nearly unanimous percentage (94 percent) of employees report that work technology is a factor in whether or not they’ll accept a role at a new company, with 67 percent saying it’s either a “top consider” or “absolutely critical.”

Improving hybrid work productivity is clearly a shared responsibility among enterprise leadership and workers. Digital transformation is at the center of that shared responsibility. Poor technology can inhibit growth, while investing in technological advances across AI, automation, and digital documents can help accelerate success inside the company and outside of it.