The Pandemic Pushed Workers To Use Broader Array Of Digital Devices, And Increased Their Proficiency

A pandemic spent relying on digital tools and away from in-person IT support has accelerated workers’ proficiency with digital technology. A Gartner survey found that 18 percent of workers now consider themselves digital technology experts, while more than half consider themselves proficient.

“Workers seized on the crisis to improve their mastery of a wide range of technologies and applications in the space of a few months,” says Whit Andrews, distinguished research vice president at Gartner. “Today’s workplace is vastly different from 2019’s, and CIOs must prepare their technology stacks, office spaces, IT teams and mindsets to embrace the new future of the digital workplace.”

The Gartner survey—conducted in November and December 2020 among 10,080 full-time employees at organizations with 100 or more employees in the U.S., Europe and Asia-Pacific—found that digital workers increased their reliance on portable devices during 2020. Workers reported an 11-percent increase in the proportion of their work time spent on laptops, smartphones or tablets. The proportion of their time spent on desktops declined by eight percent.

The survey also showed a rise in the number of workers using personal technology for work purposes. Over half of respondents reported that they use applications or web services that they personally obtained—most of which are employer-sanctioned—for collaborating with other workers. The same proportion (55 percent) are using personally-owned devices for their work at least some of the time.

“When organizations were forced to go remote in early 2020, workers started to rely on their own devices or programs they discovered themselves to make up for their employers’ technology shortcomings,” says Andrews. “In 2021, organizations can embrace this trend by expanding the choice of devices and software programs that workers can use with little or no friction.”

Gartner notes that one of the main questions lingering among executives regarding the impacts of the last year is the effect of remote work on productivity. According to its survey, among employees whose work-from-home time increased since January 2020, 36 percent reported an increase in productivity, while 35 percent reported no change. Flexibility in working hours was the most-cited factor enabling greater productivity, selected by 43 percent of respondents.

“Now that many workers have had a taste of the flexibility that remote work offers, it will be a key factor in hiring and talent acquisition,” says Andrews. “In fact, 69 percent of workers in our survey said they were more likely to consider a new role that allows them to work from a location of their choice, and 64 percent were more likely to consider a role that allows for flexible hours.”

A quarter of workers surveyed reported that their productivity fell. Connectivity issues and technology changes were among the top reasons cited for decreased productivity.

“Digital proficiency becomes even more essential for productivity when working remotely,” says Andrews. “CIOs should extend worker-to-worker lateral mentoring and training to ensure that no employees are left behind as technology mastery becomes the expectation.”

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