As many of us can attest, a variety of factors impact how we experience remote work. These range from the ergonomics of our workstation, to whether we are caretakers of children or elderly parents, to the generation we were born into.
New findings from the Nintex Workplace 2021 Study—which surveyed 1,000 American workers about their sentiment around their current jobs and the future of work—reveal that where employees live in the United States also has an impact.
The study highlights a positive nationwide productivity statistic with 70 percent of those employees reporting being “more productive than expected” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Which U.S. regions report the highest – and lowest – productivity levels?
The Northwest ranked highest for productivity during the pandemic, with the Southeast comes in as the lowest:
- Employees in the Northwest (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and California) report the highest levels of productivity at 80 percent.
- Southeast workers (West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida) report the lowest productivity levels at 61 percent.
- Southwest employees (Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma) report better-than-anticipated productivity at 74 percent.
- The Midwest (North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio) rank their productivity at 67 percent
- In the Northeast (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland) productivity comes in at 65 percent.
Nintex Workplace 2021 Study regional-specific findings
Northwesterners report being the most highly productive (80 percent) of any region surveyed and are also the most optimistic when it comes to career advancement (86 percent) in 2021, despite reporting the highest levels of emotional turmoil related to the pandemic (29 percent report being sad/higher levels of loneliness) and current events (64 percent).
This region also managed to better maintain work/life balance with nearly half of those surveyed reporting that they did not spend all of their time working in 2020, and with 45 percent enjoying more time off last year than in 2019.
Employees in the Northwest, more than any other region, report 90 percent of their organizations moderately or significantly use automation/AI-driven tools across business processes and workflows, which may have freed-up workers to take more time off. Despite this, 67 percent of those surveyed in the Northwest desire to return to the office in the future.
Southwesterners report higher than anticipated productivity at 74 percent and are also optimistic about career advancement (77 percent) at their current employer or a new employer in 2021.
Southwesterners, however, remain bogged down by manual tasks. One in 10 Southwest survey respondents say their companies are leveraging automation and AI-driven tools minimally or to no extent. In fact, the reported use of RPA software decreased by 9 percent and use of workflow automation also declined by 18 percent during the course of the pandemic in this region.
Sixty-percent of those surveyed in the Southwest reported being ready to return to an office environment.
Midwesterners report better than expected productivity at 67 percent and rate their employer’s use of automation and AI-driven tools as the middle of the road—with 51 percent of those surveyed leveraging AI and automation software to a significant extent.
Midwestern companies also seized the opportunity to eliminate repetitive tasks in 2020, reporting a 12 percent increase in leveraging robotic process automation (RPA) software. Additionally, more than a quarter (29 percent) of workers surveyed report that their companies are using workflow automation software and 23 percent report using document automation.
When it comes to returning to the office, Midwesterners are split down the middle with just over half of those surveyed (53 percent) expressing excitement to return to in-office work.
Northeasterners report being more productive than expected at 65 percent and remain the most unphased of any region by the emotional toll of the pandemic. Only 16 percent reported they are sadder or lonelier than usual. Workers in this region also reported working more hours over the last year. Of those surveyed, 72 percent took the same or less paid time off in 2020 than in 2019.
Additionally, Northeasterners characterized their company’s technology before the pandemic as outdated and inefficient at twice the rate of the most modern, efficient region (the Northwest). That said, the Northeast reported strong technological gains with 18 percent (the highest rate among any region) implementing robotic process automation software during the pandemic.
Southeasterners reported the lowest level of productivity across all five regions at 61 percent and resulted in employees in this region working as much or more in 2020, with 72 percent of those surveyed taking the same or less paid time off in 2020 compared to the previous year.
The region is also split on returning to the office, with only 46 percent saying they want to go back to the office.
When it comes to workplace technology before and during the pandemic, employees at organizations in the Southeast region report an increased usage of document automation software by 40 percent. That’s the most among any other region and indicates a strong shift from paper-based processes they’ve dealt with in the past.
To learn more, download the Nintex Workplace 2021 Study eBook and watch the video “Nintex’s Workplace 2021: How to keep employees happy.”