In the end, most organizations delivered an adequate job during the initial phases of the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of providing their workers with their basic needs when it came to safety, security, and a transition to virtual work. However, those needs have continued to evolve rapidly, and the technology industry has stepped up significantly to respond with potent new capabilities that can rapidly address many outstanding requirements. Finally, what organizations need from their workers, and vice versa, has shifted steadily as well.

The trends are clear: A recently conducted Constellation Research CIO Outlook Report found that organizations have been profoundly challenged to both support and enable their workers long term, as well as to maintain a strong connection with them over time as their work remains virtual month after month.

These two gaps in needs are strategic and have long-term consequences to the health and vitality of organizations and their workers. The situation calls for a more sophisticated and concerted approach as organizations enter the next phase of the pandemic.

Data confirms the challenging situation with remote work today. For example, well-known management consultancy McKinsey & Company recently surveyed a cross section of workers on a variety of topics related to today’s almost entirely remote employee experience. They found that employees working remotely saw more positive effects on their daily work, are more engaged, and complete more work. Indeed, the chief information officers (CIOs) and chief human resource officers (CHROs) Constellation Research has sampled widely over the last year universally report higher worker productivity during the pandemic, although productivity is not always the best measure of effectiveness. (In fact, most organizations actually have had a poor ability to quantify worker productivity, until recently.)

Remote work, at least on the basis of raw output, seems to be a broad success. Yet output is far from the only or leading measure of an employee experience.

Some news is good: Workers do report having a stronger sense of well-being than is reported by those in nonremote jobs that offer less safety and little flexibility. Parents who work from home appear to be faring better than those who are more isolated. Fathers working remotely are much more positive about the experience than mothers are. Most knowledge workers in general are finding ways to cope with massive changes in their immediate work experience over the last year.

But these vignettes miss the more fundamental truth about employee experience, which has become almost entirely digital today: Even when faced with similar circumstances, more than 80% say the crisis is substantially affecting their daily work lives—reporting widely varied experiences, perspectives, and outcomes, both positive and negative. Constellation’s CIO survey returned a clear signal that the health of workers, physically and mentally, is being challenged both by physical isolation and by a lack of connection with their colleagues and the organization.

The fact is that yesterday’s employee-experience and digital-workplace tools simply weren’t designed as a response to the current environment or to address its leading issues. Along the way, the digital experience of workers and the physical experience of workers fused into a single journey that has to be better designed and managed. There is a large gap between what most organizations have and what they actually need.

This, then, is the backdrop of and business case for a dramatically transformed and improved employee experience in 2021.

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Seize the return to work to realize the art of the possible

The return-to-work phase now presents an unprecedented opportunity for organizations to rethink the employee experience in ways that respect individual differences—including home lives, skills, inclinations, capabilities, mindsets, personal aspirations, and other factors—while also adapting to rapidly changing circumstances. This includes bringing to bear perhaps the largest wave of innovation in digital employee experience the industry has ever seen—both in approach and in the technologies.

The good news is that with advances in analytics techniques, mass engagement and collaboration tools, work behavioral support tools, real-time work coordination systems, two-way communication channels, and other technologies, leaders have an embarrassment of riches at hand now to address employee experience in a more focused and dynamic way. Not only can they drill down on which employees require more and varied types of support, but they also can personalize the actions that create widely shared and much-needed feelings of well-being and cohesion across the workforce.

This path leads directly to more connected, effective, engaged workers who can create an unbeatable competitive advantage for the organization, never mind that it’s the most responsible way to support and provide a rewarding and sustainable future for organizations going forward. But the challenge is in committing the time and resources to better design today’s relatively haphazard jumble of digital tools and touchpoints, adding vital new capabilities along the way and delivering them in a more usable and consistent manner.

Ready to respond to this urgent challenge?

This independent report assesses the impact of sudden remote working and disparate business applications on the worker journey, and identifies the need to make the employee experience more cohesive. You will learn:

  • The best ways to enable employees as they adapt to a more digital experience
  • Strategies for modernizing an existing employee experience to current standards
  • Details on why a DAP is the #1 foundational technology to invest in this year

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