Location, Location, Location

Even before organizations began to prepare for the post-pandemic workplace, it was apparent the new model would likely be hybrid. This, in turn, led to discussion around the coming migration of newly mobile workers.

Source: GarryKillian / shutterstock

Last October, Becky Frankiewicz and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic wrote in the Harvard Business Review, “Technology has now untethered talent from location. Talented individuals with in-demand skills in any sector now realize they can live where they choose and work where they are qualified.”

That same month, Upwork released results from its report “Remote Workers on the Move,” which found 14 million to 23 million Americans were planning to relocate to a new U.S. city or region as a result of the ability to work remotely. In an interview with CNBC, Upwork’s chief economist, Adam Ozimek, said, “As our survey shows, many people see remote work as an opportunity to relocate to where they want and where they can afford to live. This is an early indicator of the much larger impacts that remote work could have in increasing economic efficiency and spreading opportunity.”

Before pulling up stakes, some of those workers may want to consider the results of the Nintex Workplace 2021 Study. We surveyed 1,000 American workers about their sentiments around their current jobs and the future of work and found employees’ self-reported productivity levels differed by U.S. region by almost 20%. 

The largest disparity was between the Southeast (West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida), where only 61% of workers reported greater-than-anticipated productivity during the pandemic, and the Northwest (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and California), where 80% of workers were more productive than expected. 

Interestingly, while leading the country in productivity, workers in the Northwest were also able to better maintain work/life balance; 45% of those surveyed took more time off in 2020 than in 2019. Conversely, 72% of surveyed workers in the Southeast took the same amount of time off during the same period or less.

When looking at the gap between the two regions, it’s important to note that employees in the Northwest reported that 90% of their organizations “moderately or significantly use automation/AI-driven tools across business processes and workflows.” That’s the highest of any of the five regions in our survey, making the Northwest the most modern and efficient region of the country.

In the Southeast, employees reported an increase in the use of document automation software by 40%—also the most among any region. This indicates that organizations in those states may have entered the pandemic lagging behind on digitalization and automation but quickly made the shift from paper-based processes after the pandemic began.

We saw the same correlation between productivity and automation in the Northeast, where only 65% of workers reported being more productive than expected and also characterized their company’s technology before the pandemic as outdated and inefficient at twice the rate of the Northwest. 

While there were undoubtedly other factors at play, the results of our survey show a strong correlation between productivity and automation. 

The desire for better automation was highest among the youngest workers: 55% of Gen Z respondents said software to automate work would increase their productivity. This isn’t surprising, given that younger generations of workers have grown up in an age in which they’ve always had the Internet—and access to instant gratification regarding user experience with technological platforms—and they’re demanding that experience within the workplace.

But younger generations of workers aren’t the only ones looking to automation. When asked what they needed to be more productive, 50% of respondents across all generations said a more flexible work schedule—which is made possible by automation—and 37% cited better automation software. 

The bottom line is that there’s been a paradigm shift in how and where work will be done. 

As Frankiewicz and Chamorro-Premuzic concluded, “In short, the global talent pool has arrived, and talent is the new global currency … if businesses have the culture, confidence, and technology to tap into it.”

In other words, if organizations want to compete for talent, they must recognize that workers have different needs and demands than they did a year ago, and they must prepare to meet those needs. 

Terry Simpson is Senior Solutions Engineer at Nintex.

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