Lesson From Crisis: Remote Workforce Seeks Digital Empowerment


The pandemic exposed some hard truths about legacy, manual processes. Walker Fenton, SVP Product Management, TrackVia explores how COVID-19 and subsequent telework orders have created an opportunity for IT decision makers to lead digital transformation efforts from the bottom up.

In March, the way the world works was forever changed. Without warning, the majority of the world’s workforce found itself participating in an impromptu experiment in modern productivity and autonomy. This sudden shift in workingOpens a new window , which took place overnight for many, has challenged not just workers on how to communicate remotely Opens a new window but for employers to provide the same access to information and technology needed to do their jobs. This struggle to stay connected has highlighted some of the foundational inefficiencies that most companies have worked around with for decades.

To gain a better understanding of these challenges, we surveyed Opens a new window 200 IT professionals and 200 workers to gain perspective on how companies are adapting to these challenges.

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The Shift to WFH Wasn’t Smooth

The abrupt shelter-in-place and resulting move to working from homeOpens a new window weren’t easy for employers or workers. Of those who could continue to do their job remotely, 69% of workers said the COVID-19 crisis had negatively impacted their ability to do work. IT and workers cited the inability to travel, communicate effectively, and access vital information as some of the barriers they encountered to working from homeOpens a new window .

  • 59% of IT and 40% of workers said they couldn’t travel to other locations to get the information they need
  • 40% of IT and 50% of workers said it was difficult to communicate with workers they rely on to do their job
  • 37% of IT and 31% of workers said they had trouble accessing the company systems and servers

In order to adapt to this new way of working, new solutions and tools were needed. Both IT (96%) and workers (78%) have had to adopt different tools or methodologies to do their job during the COVID-19 crisis.

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COVID-19 Further Exposed The Longstanding Inefficiencies of Manual Processes

I’ve written about the high costs of sticking with manual processes in the pastOpens a new window . Today, companies still track logistics via spreadsheets or conduct project management via email. The flaws in these workflows were exposed even more with the abrupt shelter-in-place orders. According to the report, 62% of workers said there were manual processes they can’t perform since COVID-19 and IT agreed, with 89% saying there are manual processes they or their employees can’t perform.

In the face of these challenges, less than half of workers and IT have implemented software to help perform these tasks remotely, while for some, these critical work processes were just not getting done. According to the report, 20% of IT professionals and 34% of workers said they simply weren’t performing manual tasks.

While some are headed back to the office, the uncertainty of the long-term effects of the pandemic on the working environment are up in the air. To ensure work systemsOpens a new window remain intact, despite the location of workers or IT, now is the time to do a thorough evaluation of the processes and systems that rely on manual methods. With many of the kinks in the system uncovered in the shift to working from home, it is easier to identify the problem areas and work towards digitization efforts that improve work processes.

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Workers Want More Say in How They Do Their Jobs than Ever Before

Once processes change and move forward, it is difficult to go back. It’s human nature to continue to evolve and grow. Workers and IT alike have had to pull up their bootstraps over the last few months to find new ways to power their work. Combined with the further exposure of inefficient manual processes, 71% of workers said they believe the changing work environment has accelerated the need for their employer to adapt new technologies and solutions.

Not only do workers and IT say the time is right to make some changes, they feel empowered to be a part of the solution. The report shows 82% of IT and 58% of workers feel empowered to address the technology changes they have faced since COVID-19.

One way workers are stepping up is their rising drive to be a creator of the solutions themselves. Back in 2014, just 47% of workers said if they had the tools available, they would create their own applications to manage business tasks. Now, nearly two-thirds of workers (61%) said they would do so. IT is also advocating for more employee empowerment with 87% saying their companies should do more to empower employees to work more creatively.

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Digital Transformation From the Bottom Up

While the world watches and waits to see how the COVID-19 pandemic affects the working environment long-term, we have an opportunity in front of us to empower employees to be a driving force in moving away from inefficient manual methods that ground some work processes to a halt. While IT has long been a driver toward digital transformationOpens a new window , workers are taking it upon themselves to push this movement forward. In just the last six years we have seen an increase in the willingness for workers to create their own applications to manage business tasks.

This empowerment movement was accelerated by the COVID crisis. And with the establishment of more flexibility and say in how workers do their jobs, those expectations are likely to stick around and further accelerate. IT’s paternal relationship with employees is no longer needed — and is being replaced with the partnership — in a world that demands software solutions at the new pace of business. While employees need to act quickly and decisively in the new business environment, IT’s role is now to provide them with the tools they can use to work more effectively and creatively.

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