European employers missing the opportunity to automate processes for hybrid work

The transition to hybrid work has stimulated a shift among employees looking to their business to streamline their workflows, but research finds just a tenth have access to automation tools

Despite hybrid working rapidly becoming a default state for firms establishing operations in the post-Covid work environment, research from Ricoh Europe has suggested employers are not taking the opportunity to automate workflows, upgrade office spaces or heed employee calls to digitise manual processes.

The research, conducted by Opinium for the digital workplace technology provider, polled 3,000 office workers across the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain.

The top-line finding was that most European employees now believe digitising processes improves their work, as admin-heavy workloads, lack of office booking systems and inadequate workflow technology hamper employee experience.

Indeed, currently, only 11% of office workers had access to workflow automation tools, while two-fifths (44%) reported no change in their company’s investment in tools to automate tasks or processes over the past year. That was despite, noted Ricoh, more than two-thirds (69%) saying automating processes make their work better – a shift from more sceptical pre-pandemic attitudes to workplace digitisation.

Hybrid work represents a major opportunity for employers to improve the employee experience and productivity by automating laborious and mundane tasks and processes, but they risk missing out if they fail to embrace the tools and procedures that can make hybrid working a success and meet employee needs.

Nearly half of workers (49%) said they would be more productive if their administrative burden wasn’t so high. Yet two-fifths (42%) expressed confusion over the number of technology platforms they are expected to use, saying these additional tools actually increase their workload rather than streamline it. This, said the survey, highlighted the need for employers to take a consultative approach when considering the technology and systems that are best for their people.

Ricoh warned that platform overload could soon frustrate talent and lead to them looking for opportunities elsewhere.

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Going forward, Ricoh observed that with employers trying to encourage workers back to the office, establishing processes to make this transition easy is vital.

However, more than half of European office workers (54%) think there hasn’t been a change in the amount invested in desk and room booking systems.

As many businesses look to downsize their office footprint, a lack of, or convoluted process for, desk booking could mean workers arrive at the office without an adequate workspace. This naturally contributes to creating a poor experience and a disincentive to return to the physical workplace.

“Gone are the days where employees felt concerned about their roles being ‘replaced’ by automation,” said Ricoh Europe CEO Nicola Downing.

“The value of technology and automation, when implemented effectively, is widely seen to free up time to work on more valuable activities. Ultimately, if employers fail to weave automation into their long-term hybrid working strategies, they could be missing an important opportunity to improve operations while boosting morale and productivity across the entire workforce.”

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