ABBYY Survey Shows Young Executives Have Higher Expectations for Smart Technology to Balance Work From Home (WFH) Demands

MILPITAS, Calif., Feb. 3, 2021– Surprising survey results showing the use of technology and workforce productivity reveal that senior level executives aged 55+ fare better than their digital native counterparts aged under 35 during the global pandemic.

The ABBYY COVID-19 Technology and Business Process survey investigated work from home (WFH) challenges, how employees worldwide feel about the way company processes work, and how smart technologies including digital assistants, data analysis and insights, and productivity tools will continue to play a major role this year and beyond.

The challenges facing executives of all ages highlight the need to better align investments in people, processes, and technology for companies to be resilient and thrive in the future. The following results surmise the generational divide among senior-level executives, ranging from managers to board-level directors.

  • Different generations evaluate business processes differently. 61% of the digital natives said processes make their job more challenging, whereas only 36% of the 55+ generation found challenges. Young executives are also more exasperated with business processes saying they waste their time (85% versus 20% of 55+). Leaders must rethink key processes that may not be intuitive to digital natives and thereby negatively impacting their mental health, motivation, trust, and loyalty.
  • There is a huge gap in process expectations between digital natives and baby boomers. Two-thirds of young executives surveyed said there is not enough information provided on business processes, while only 26% of those over 55 agreed. And two-thirds of young executives said there is not enough visibility of the progress of processes, while only 25% of older executives complained about this. Access to process visibility may be attributed to hierarchy levels among management; organizations should foster a culture of transparency and democratize process understanding among all workers interacting with systems and applications.
  • Younger executives’ biggest challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic is motivation to work (39%), compared to older colleagues at only 19%. Difference in life stages may be a factor in motivation, such as having younger children at home versus away at college. Leaders should consider benefits that can be used towards childcare or home schooling to alleviate stresses at home.
  • Another big challenge for people between the ages 18-34 and 35-54 was “feeling isolated working from home” (28% and 27% respectively), suggesting business leaders need to pay more attention on fostering a community among a remote workforce, and offering access to wellness services for self-care or to talk to about stress and anxiety, for example.


Age rangeMotivation

to work

Collaborating remotelyProductivity/efficiency in my day-to-day tasksI haven’t found anything challenging
Executives 18-3439%38%31%13%
Executives 34-5428%36%25%24%
Executives 55+19%34%21%35%

Figure 1: U.S. respondents – “What have you found challenging at work since the start of the pandemic?”

“While companies were quick to implement new technology to help remote workers, a lack of focus was given to the ease of use and impact to the overall work processes that is frustrating digital natives and impacting their motivation and productivity,” said Bruce Orcutt, Senior Vice President of Marketing at ABBYY. “In addition to AI enabling technology and process tools, companies should consider how they can help employees balance their WFH life through new programs and services, training, and upskilling.”

Executives 55+ find digital workers more useful

  • Young executives use digital workers 19% more than their senior counterparts, however, the latter are finding that digital workers are more useful. Perception among executives under 35 indicates there may be other factors hindering usefulness.
  • Of those not yet using the technologies, 79% of younger respondents think they would have more of an impact on their productivity, compared to 66% of respondents over 55 and 71% of 35-54-year-olds. This further infers that the more senior workforce is skeptical about digital workers or new tech that they have never used before and are less likely to turn to technology for support. Leaders should focus on upskilling older workers to use digital technology and clearly explain their benefits.
  • As expected, most executives under 35 use more smart technologies, such as digital assistants, monitoring software, data analysis and insights, and mobile productivity apps, more than other age groups. Middle aged executives in the survey were relatively split on their use of advanced technology, while seniors used them the least.


Age rangeDigital AssistantsMonitoring softwareData Analysis & InsightsMobile Productivity Apps
Executives 18-3468%69%74%73%
Executives 34-5447%46%53%54%
Executives 55+27%26%28%37%

Figure 2: U.S. respondents – “Does your company use any of the following technologies?”

Concluded Orcutt, “Transitioning your organization into a digitally focused workplace should not forgo the importance of human connections. Technology should be an enabler for improving communications and productivity even in a remote and distributed workforce.”


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