How COVID-19 Changed the Way We Think About Office Technology [New Research]

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The recent COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we think about a lot of things.

From the size of our weddings and special events to the comfort level of our pajamas and stay-at-home clothes, we’ve reconsidered the size, shape, and necessity of many, many elements in our lives.

Work is one of these elements, if not the main one. We’ve asked ourselves (and our employers) questions like:

“Can I get as much done at home as I would in the office?” “How do I stay connected to my team if we’re all remote?”, and “Is it really necessary to have as many meetings as I did before?”

While we’ve all found different answers to these questions, one thing is consistent: COVID-19 has forced us to learn how to stay connected, motivated, and productive in new ways. The Executive Marketing Leadership Survey [Download Now] 

Canva + HubSpot Marketing Survey

In October, we teamed up with Canva to better understand how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected marketing leaders, their resources, and their teams. We surveyed 502 marketing leaders (mostly senior-level marketing managers, directors, VPs, and CMOs) from across the United States and asked them how COVID-19 has affected their teams, processes, and priorities.

The results are in, and our findings are pointing towards a new way of thinking about work — especially the tools and technologies we use to get stuff done.

Download the research here, and keep reading to unpack some of our most important findings.

How COVID-19 Changed the Way We Think and Use Office Technology

It’s no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic has massively impacted where we now work. Out of 500+ marketing leaders, 73% reported that they’ve been working remotely for over three months.

This will likely be the “new normal” for some. A recent Gartner poll revealed that 48% of employees will likely work remotely at least part of the time after COVID-19, versus 30% doing so before the pandemic.

hubspot marketing study remote work statistic

But COVID-19 hasn’t just affected where we work — it has also changed how we work. Many of the respondents reported new challenges in their day-to-day projects and processes:

Decision-making: Over 50% agreed that their team’s ability to make decisions has been negatively impacted. Planning: 72% agreed that their planning process has been more difficult, and over 70% have seen their planning framework dramatically change with the impact of COVID. Feedback: Over 70% agreed that it’s become more difficult to give and receive effective feedback while working remotely. Productivity: Over 66% agreed that their team’s productivity has dropped, and nearly 50% said they’ve struggled to motivate their teams.

If you resonate with these findings, you’re not alone. It’s clear the COVID-19 has been tough all around, regardless of your team size or industry. Let’s unpack some more detailed trends — and potentially permanent changes — we’re seeing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some organizations are outsourcing more marketing projects.

Gartner found that the COVID-19 pandemic has led 32% of organizations to replace full-time employees with contingent workers and contractors.

We see some of this reflected in our survey respondents’ post-pandemic resource planning:

Resource Pre-Pandemic Post-Pandemic
Growth marketing Majority in-house (64%) Shift to more in-house (68%)
Design Majority outsourced (48%) Small shift to even more outsourced
Content marketing Majority in-house (48%) Evened out
Web development Majority outsourced (50%) Shift to more in-house
Social media marketing Majority in-house (50%) Shift to more outsourced
Media buying Majority in-house (51%) No change
Affiliate marketing Majority in-house (55%) Shift to more in-house (58%)
SEO Majority in-house (55%) Shift to more outsourced
PR Majority in-house (55%) No change

Why might this be? For one, outsourcing is a common cost-saving measure. It can also help meet demand.

50% of respondents reported that it’s been more difficult for their teams to come up with creative content — perhaps outsourcing projects like content marketing and design has helped teams maintain their production cadence during times of stress and burnout (which we’ll explain below).

However, hiring contractors and external agency services requires increased communication and collaboration.

Gone are the days when we could walk across the hall for a chat at a coworker’s desk or host in-person meetings with agencies. During the pandemic, we’ve learned to replace these conversations with quick messages or video calls — most likely using a tool like Slack or Zoom.

Our respondents would agree. 75% reported that instant messaging platforms like Slack were “good” and “exceptional” at supporting collaboration. 72% rated the same for the level of usability for these tools.

If companies and teams weren’t using an instant messaging platform before the pandemic, it’s highly likely that they are now. The need for a tool like this also arises when outsourcing projects. It’s more important than ever to stay aligned — especially when working with third-party contractors.

For those keeping marketing in-house, new tools are needed.

You’ll see in the table above that many of our survey respondents still reported keeping or shifting many resources in-house. This could also be in an effort to save money and meet demand — by using new tools and technologies to compensate for a lack of labor.

For example, 44% of respondents reported that their need for new visual assets and graphic design has increased since the start of the pandemic. 39% reported the demand has mostly stayed the same.

Regardless, this is a vast majority of marketers who need to maintain or boost their graphic design production — in the middle of a pandemic, no less. A similar number of respondents (38%) reported that their graphic design software did a “neutral,” “poor,” or "terrible" job of supporting collaboration within their team.

This presents a unique opportunity to use office technology and tools like Canva — to support increased customer demand while saving costs and supporting remote collaboration.

Another set of respondents (50%) reported seeing traffic to their website increase and the need for regular updates also increase. Our study also revealed that 16% of marketers find the usability and collaboration of their website content management system (CMS) either “neutral,” “poor,” or “terrible.”

For those keeping website management in-house, incorporating a tool like HubSpot CMS can vastly improve your team’s remote collaboration and productivity — all while meeting the increased demand from your customers (which is a good thing!).

Organizations are using technology to monitor and support employees.

We’ve confirmed so far that marketing teams have been pressed for productivity and collaboration while being asked to create more creative content to meet customer needs, employer demand — all in an ever-changing, pandemic-soaked market.

While office technology has never been more critical, neither has recognizing and acknowledging the barriers COVID-19 has created, such as an increased team workload and employee burnout (17%).

hubspot canva marketing study statistics

This rise in employee burnout has led to more discussion around the responsibility of employers to their staff. A Deloitte study found that, as the “pandemic has put more hours into the working day,” organizations should do more than just foster open dialogue and open practices around well-being. Gartner agrees — they theorize that COVID-19 has expanded employee expectations of their employer as a “social safety net.”

Technology has come in handy for non-work related needs, too. Zoom has equipped teams to host online happy hours, virtual holiday parties, and even team-building activities. Companies are also sponsoring free telehealth and virtual therapy sessions.

Gartner also found that, in a less digital sense, employers are also offering “support includ[ing] enhanced sick leave, financial assistance, adjusted hours of operation and child care provisions.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how employers use office technology to understand not only the employee experience but also remote employee performance. A Gartner study found that 16% of employers are using tools to monitor employees through virtual clocking in and out, tracking work computer usage, and observing employee emails or internal communications.

This trend started well before the pandemic, but it will continue to grow in popularity as more folks opt to permanently work remotely.

Over to You

As large and difficult as these COVID-19 shifts have been, for the time being, they are here to stay.

Listen to these emerging trends and invest in new processes, tools, and technology in 2021. Doing so will help you combat these challenges and better motivate, monitor, and equip your remote teams. Remember, it’s your responsibility to help them be productive at home, stay connected to their teams, and make room for how the pandemic is affecting their personal lives, too.

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Originally published Dec 7, 2020 7:00:00 AM, updated December 07 2020

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