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Letter from Adobe Workfront (May 2021): How COVID-19 changed digital work




I hope April showers have brought you May flowers! It’s been beautiful here in Utah this spring. 

We recently released the 2021 State of Work Report, our seventh annual study focused on how digital workers view and value work. We originally embarked on a journey in Q1 of 2020 to study how the two largest age cohorts in the workforce—millennials (ages 23-43) and Generation Xers (ages 44-52)—approached work. The data came back just as companies were sending their employees home to work, and provided a pre-pandemic snapshot of work trends. We ran the same study in Q4 of last year and then compared the two data sets, which gave us a view of how Covid-19 changed digital work.  

The results of the survey are fascinating, and I encourage you to download the report. The study clearly surfaces generational differences in how individuals work, but also shows how the pivot to remote work has changed the way individuals view and complete work.  

Here are some takeaways I found particularly interesting: 

  • Today’s workers are really attached to technology. In fact, nearly half of digital workers say they are willing to leave their current job if they feel the technology they work with hurts their performance. Another surprise? 47% of respondents shared that they have applied for a job based on the company’s reputation for good technology and 37% have turned down a job because of poor technology. This passion for technology isn’t just from the millennial group— Gen Xers view technology as even more essential to their success.  
  • Digital workers WANT to collaborate. We saw a significant increase over the timeframe of the two studies in both the importance of collaborating (+10 points) and workers being able to do their best work (+9 points). In a remote world, the ability to collaborate has become more difficult, but workers have risen to the occasion and digital creativity is climbing. In fact, 81% (9% increase) feel invested in their work.  
  • Employees feel more empowered. Remote work has helped employees feel less micro-managed, but they want more empowerment to decide how they achieve their goals. They crave autonomy and freedom.  
  • Generations are being impacted differently at work. Despite popular belief, the workers surveyed feel comfortable working cross-generationally; however, Gen X are more comfortable in this new work environment than their younger colleagues. Gen Xers believe they are contributing more value to their companies. They’re also even more comfortable than before the pandemic building and maintaining workplace trust, while Millennials are now less comfortable.  

As a leader, this information is invaluable, and it should be incorporated into how we interact with and manage our teams. Here are three things you can focus on to make this survey data more actionable: 

  • Connect strategy to execution. People are happiest when they feel that the work they are doing is impactful. In fact, employees ranked spending time on tasks that aren't part of their jobs as the #1 barrier to connecting their work to company goals/priorities. As leaders, it’s our job to make this connection and clearly articular the value they are bringing. Leveraging Adobe Workfront Goals is a great place to start. 
  • Increase the velocity of work. In a digital economy, speed wins. Make sure your workers have information and context about the work they’re being asked to do. Help them prioritize and give them tools to collaborate across the organization.  
  • Empower your team to work how they work best. In an increasingly digital world, investment in technology to support our employees is as important as the buildings and physical workspaces we create. The right tools are those that are fit for purpose, allow the users to stay in the applications, and create a positive work experience. The good news? You’ve already invested in one of the best tools with Workfront. To help your employees streamline, look at ways to integrate Workfront with other applications and optimize your investment

In closing, I would encourage you to read the entire 2021 State of Work Report. And in case you missed it, be sure to watch Alex Shootman’s on-demand session at Adobe Summit, Powering the Work Behind Great Customer Experiences, which focused heavily on the learnings from the State of Work Report and includes first-hand accounts and insights from our customers.  

Take care and thanks again being part of the Workfront family.