As COVID-19 restrictions ease in the UK, businesses up and down the country are taking part in a great experiment of our times: hybrid working. The pandemic has changed the way we work for good, with some companies like Facebook and Twitter having announced plans to embrace remote working permanently.
Businesses have had to adapt and fast, with building a digitisation strategy becoming the priority for many that realise the importance of evolving to maintain a competitive advantage. Organisations have spent the past 18 months onboarding talent virtually, winning customers remotely and keeping teams connected, no matter their location. The organisations that will thrive as we transition from remote-only work towards hybrid models that blend home and office-based work will be those that listen to the needs of their employees and adopt an agile approach to the future of work. But that’s not necessarily as easy as it sounds.
Powering the future of work…the right way
First, IT leaders must ensure their digitisation strategy is aligned with the business’s wider goals. They must be led by business outcomes and finding the technology to support those outcomes, rather than the other way around. For example, if their goal is to boost employee collaboration, then technologies like file-sharing, online whiteboards or instant messaging may want to be considered. If it is more of a priority to make the office space COVID-secure for the mass return of staff, then tools like office cleaning automations, capacity management applications, temperature screening solutions and reservation systems will be important. These are just a couple of examples of how technology can support these new ways of working, but it also demonstrates how every organisation’s narrative is unique, meaning everyone’s roadmap will be different.
The bottom line is that a digital journey must have meaning and be aligned with a company’s core objectives. Not only does this provide direction and avoids confusion, but it also allows for a more thought-out planning to the future workplace. This is unlike the situation many companies found themselves in at the start of the pandemic, whereby they swiftly implemented temporary solutions to enable their employees to work remotely under the UK government’s work-from-home guidelines.
Meeting demands and high expectations
Since March 2020, the digital workplace experience has become more important than ever and is now effectively inseparable from the employee experience as a whole. Where traditional in-office perks and experiences could not take place, the IT experience has had to step in, putting CIOs and IT teams under immense pressure to find solutions that foster productivity and collaboration.
This is now is a key factor in a company keeping its people happy, with research showing that 94% of CIOs believe the IT experience is important when it comes to attracting new talent, and 90% saying it’s important when it comes to retention. In addition, 54% of employees are prepared to quit if they aren’t offered the flexibility they want. This data demonstrates that employees are now expecting their organisations to step up their digital transformation projects and failing to do this would compromise an organisation’s ability to attract fresh talent and keep current employees satisfied.
But it’s not just employees that have demanding expectations of IT teams – senior leadership does too. According to a Pure Storage’s recent poll of 500 IT leaders across Europe, the vast majority (87%) are proud of the impact of their work over the last 18 months, particularly with regards to shifting workloads to the cloud and facilitating remote working. However, more than half of respondents said their efforts were not recognized by senior management and the C-suite. Furthermore, while many have drawn motivation from the value IT has demonstrated during the pandemic, teams are still hampered by conflicting priorities and a reactive approach to problem-solving.
As a consequence of such expectations, a report from AppDynamics found that 89% of technologists say they feel "immense" pressure at work. An alarming 84% of respondents said that they found it difficult to switch off from work as they kept IT going through a pandemic to deliver business value and guide innovation, while also fostering a connected and inclusive culture across the enterprise.
To overcome this, CIOs and technology executives should take advantage of this widening perception of the IT function and put themselves at the centre of the conversation about the alignment between business and IT. The CIO can therefore serve as a bridge that helps to provide business and technology context wherever necessary and informing business leaders as modernization advances. This is a privileged position from which to steer change, from a technical and managerial perspective, which can influence the growth and profitability of a company. By promoting collaboration and alignment across departments, this not only helps drive strategy but also improves mutual understanding, maximises opportunities and mitigates risk.
To conclude, the future of work is evolving to meet new challenges and take on different obstacles. While we may not know what this looks like exactly, we can start preparing for the future so that we can continue to work productively and meaningfully.
To learn more about what this looks like, keep your eyes peeled for CDW’s upcoming eBook that is scheduled to go live this autumn.