Sep 30, 2020 - Economy

Executives think they're handling the future of work — but workers disagree

Data: IBM Institute for Business Value; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

A new survey finds employers are embracing a new, more digitized way of working accelerated by the pandemic, while employees fear being left behind.

Why it matters: The realities of COVID-19 compressed years of remote work growth into a matter of months. But the onus is now on executives to support their workforces as the crisis shifts to the new normal.

What's happening: Today, IBM released its 2020 C-suite study, which surveyed more than 3,800 high-level executives in 20 countries on their outlook, both during COVID-19 and in the years ahead.

  • They report the pandemic has busted pre-pandemic barriers to digital transformation, with 66% of executives surveyed saying they've completed initiatives that had previously been held up by internal resistance.

The catch: The report showed a major gap between how executives think their company is helping workers during the pandemic and how workers themselves feel.

  • That gap isn't just about corporate communication — nearly a quarter of workers surveyed reported having been either furloughed or laid off, and they're well aware that more automation and digitization may translate to less work for humans.
  • "There's an elevation of expectations with employees in respect to their employers," says Jesus Mantas, a senior managing partner at IBM. "That creates a gap in leadership."

What to watch: Whether executives are able to adapt their leadership techniques to a hybrid or even fully remote future — and whether they can keep workers engaged now that the adrenaline of the spring has long since worn off.

Go deeper: How COVID-19 reshapes the jobs of the future

Go deeper