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It’s time for businesses to get on the front foot with their COVID-19 response

Blog Contributed by: Chris Marsh, Research Director, Workforce Productivity

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented disruption to the economy and to people's livelihoods. It seems reasonable to assume that even after quarantine's end, there will likely be prolonged economic disruption. For many businesses, this will mean knock-on effects on budgets, expansion plans and strategic initiatives. New competitive dynamics are already emerging in many industries as well.

It will also mean that businesses must address the broad range of negatively compounding impacts that have occurred across the workforce, from employee reductions and furloughs to impaired engagement and productivity, and a rise in anxiety and issues with morale.

Perhaps this pandemic's single biggest long-term impact on the workforce will have been the propulsion of workforce transformation further into the mainstream – it was already climbing up the transformation agenda pre-crisis, as our Voice of the Enterprise: Workforce Productivity and Collaboration Technology Evaluations December 2019 survey showed.

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We expect that in some businesses, organizational roadblocks that were previously somewhat negligible will now be removed out of necessity. That's because there is diminishing space to hide – inefficient processes, disengaged employees, the lack of productivity and organizational silos are all problems worsened in the short term, leaving many businesses more vulnerable than they would have been pre-crisis.

We also believe that some of the remote-work shift will likely stick, which will provide both opportunity and challenges in terms of how to manage this new workforce dynamic. This shift would be a hugely significant operational undertaking for most businesses even without the circumstances surrounding the pandemic. It's not surprising, then, that two months since the start of the lockdown, many businesses have only really established a minimally viable model for how to support their new workforce dynamic.

When the initial shift to remote work occurred, the first big obstacle was ensuring sufficient connection to tools and apps. Now the issue is dealing with distractions and finding focused time to work. It's going to be key to keeping employees engaged and productive in this new environment that businesses give their employees no-code software, allowing them to create solutions that fit their personal work styles, while quickly accessing the information and updates they need.

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One of the major benefits of no-code software is that it allows employees to create and customize more of their day-to-day experiences. It can help bring data, documents and workflow together in one experience and can also knit together distributed teams, their applications and ideas. This is especially important now because it can help employees recapture some of the context lost through scaled-back travel, in-person meetings and event attendance, and can support purposeful and focused collaboration beyond just conversation.

451 Research's Workforce Productivity and Collaboration: Work Execution Goals and Challenges May 2020 survey found that employees' top three frustrations around their workforce tooling is that information is too siloed across their different applications, that those applications don't integrate with one another, and that they have to use too many applications to get their work done. The single greatest area where employees wish for more automation is in having data more easily integrated from different applications into new workflows.

Whether it's in no-code workflow automation, easier synthesis of data across different business systems by nontechnical users, new and more flexible digital workspace canvases, or another capability, one of the key consequences of the pandemic will be more empowerment at the edge of the workforce. As businesses adjust to the impacts of the pandemic, having more employees more empowered than they traditionally have been to create more agility across the long tail of their workforce processes will be critical to getting on the front foot.
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