The 2021
State of Work

The pandemic changed work, cultural, and personal norms.

Taking the pulse of a workforce just weeks before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, and again eight months later, revealed how drastically the pandemic changed digital work. Attitudes about work changed. Expectations mounted. Millennials and Gen Xers experienced the disruption differently. And the relationship workers have with technology emerged as the top opportunity to empower a new breed of digital worker.
Our methodology
  • The first study surveyed 1,000 workers from Feb. 13-Mar. 6, 2020.
  • The second study surveyed 1,000 workers from Nov. 29-Dec. 3, 2020.
  • All respondents were employed by a company with 500+ employees, worked on a computer, and collaborated with others.

The 2021 State of Work Report uncovers the study’s most compelling findings about today’s surprisingly engaged and resilient digital workers, from the new challenges they’re up against to the ways they’re thriving against all odds.

A girl working on computer with creativity tool.

Digital creativity
is climbing.

+9

Workers are relying much more on technology now to foster creativity and innovation (+9 points).

+8

Workers are turning to technology to develop new ideas (+8 points) — and creatively solve problems.

We were already ramping up our use of digital collaboration tools. When the pandemic hit, we had no option but to accelerate those efforts, and that’s been a gift. Today, we can take the creative process that happens by being together and building on each other’s ideas in person, and make it possible virtually. Our creativity isn’t limited because we don’t sit next to each other.
Robyn Tombacher
Global Head of Workforce Management
Old computer.

Digital workers will not settle for bad
workplace tech.

32 %

Workers who quit a job because workplace tech made their jobs harder jumped from 22%
pre-COVID-19 to 32%.

49 %

Nearly half of workers say they’re likely to leave their current job if they’re unhappy or frustrated with workplace tech.

Digital workers know how technology should work, and they know that it’s critical to their ability to be successful. When their employers provide them with subpar tools, it’s more than an inconvenience. It demonstrates that the company isn’t very concerned with either the quality of work or the people doing the work.
Elizabeth Volini
Executive Director, ePMO Lead, PPM Platform Owner
Broken chart

Digital workers are more invested than ever — but they feel under appreciated.

81 %

Workers who say they feel invested or very invested in their jobs keeps rising — from 79% to 81%.

+8

Feeling underappreciated — ranked as the top deterrent to feeling invested in the first study — rose eight points.

Despite a global pandemic, our very human need to find meaning in our work is revealed in this data.
Alex Shootman
VP and GM
Funko pop

COVID-19 created new challenges for millennials.

+8

Gen Xers reported an 8-point bump in comfort communicating ideas compared to millennials’ 1-point bump.

-3

Millennials reported a 3-point drop in comfort building and reinforcing trust; Gen Xers reported a 4-point rise.

While crises of the past may have created a ‘buyer’s market’ where employers could set the terms, the pandemic is requiring leaders to address both the technology needs and the life-situation barriers that are impacting individual and team flourishing, across the generational spectrum.
Laura Butler
SVP, People & Culture

Why the State of Work matters — takeaways for leaders.

COVID-19 changed digital work — a seismic shift that’s backed by data. The 10-point changes — and in some cases bigger — revealed in the report are rare and remarkable in trends research. But what does this mean for companies and leaders responsible for supporting their digital workforces through uncertainty?

From treating technology as a critical workforce issue to prioritizing the employee experience on par with your customers’, the results of this research are intended to help leaders understand and cultivate resilience in their digital workforces — to attract and retain talent,  stay competitive, and be on the forefront of reshaping the future of digital work.

For digital workers, technology is an integral part of engagement. Leaders who understand this are leveraging work technologies to mitigate the mundane and burdensome, and enable everything from flexibility and creativity to mental and personal wellbeing. Deployed thoughtfully—even in the most challenging times—technology can support employees in doing the best work of their lives.
Paul Tasker
VP, Marketing Operations

Related resources

Forrester
Play

Forrester’s Total Economic Impact™ (TEI) of Workfront study

Read the report to learn how Workfront can provide companies with a 285% ROI over three years with a payback period of less than three months.

State of Work
Play

State of Work 2021 UK Report

Taking the pulse of the UK digital workforce just weeks before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, and again eight months later, revealed how drastically the pandemic changed digital work.

Maturity Assessment
Play

Work Management Maturity Assessment

The journey toward work optimization starts with understanding your organization’s current level of work maturity. Take the assessment and learn how to optimize work — at every level.

Work management powers digital work — and workers.

Work management centralizes and connects all facets of work — data, people, processes, and technology. It eliminates silos and integrates applications while surfacing insights to help companies optimize their people and processes.
Work management enables organizations to:

  • Conquer conflict
  • Foster creativity and innovation
  • Promote autonomy and alignment
  • Support agility
  • Make work meaningful