It’s a well-entrenched fact by now that remote work really works. World over, enterprises migrated to remote working models with remarkable success rates when the pandemic struck. At the end of ten months, the benefits of remote working turned out to be beyond what we expected.
Firms were able to achieve improved productivity levels & employee satisfaction, cut down operational cost and be better prepared for disasters. Needless to mention, remote models were instrumental in ensuring immediate business continuity during the crisis.
Amid what we can call the biggest disruption that the enterprise world ever faced, brands were able to redefine customer experience and reinvent service delivery models with large percentage of their workforce working from home.
Remote working wasn’t just for the knowledge workers or a specific set of job profiles. Even the traditional industries and tasks that were historically being considered office-centric (people in call centers, agents selling a life insurance policy or a primary school teacher for example) were handled from home.
By all means, remote work is here to stay. But what does the future of workplace look like, with companies being optimistic about the possibility of ‘return to work’?
When hybrid defines the future
Nations have kick started their vaccination programs. Our knowledge and resources for creating a safe working environment has also improved significantly in the last few months. Does that mean we will go back to the ‘old normal’ and embrace our traditional workplaces with both arms? We sure do miss our offices, the team meetings, and close collaboration with our colleagues, but in all possibility, there is no going back to the ‘old normal’.
What if we could get the best of both the worlds? That’s exactly what hybrid work models promises to deliver.
Market trends clearly indicate that companies are increasingly choosing hybrid work models. The new work environments will be designed to accommodate some employees working remotely while others work from home, or, rather than commuting five days a week, employees choose to be in office for collaborative projects or key meetings.
Hybrid models intrinsically promotes the employee’s preference for flexibility while driving innovation and overall value for the organization. The number of remote workers by the end of 2021 will still continue to be at least three times more than the pre-pandemic numbers.
The good news is, we have already successfully built the infrastructure and processes required for employees to create a productive workplace anywhere! Smart organizations will not shy away from further optimizing those investments for better outcomes.
Till the time we completely eliminate the risks associated with COVID-19, which will likely take substantial time even with vaccination programs being accelerated, hybrid will continue to be the preferred model.
How technology stacks will get recalibrated
As hybrid is set to be the new normal, technology leaders are tasked with reordering workplaces once again from a technology and infrastructure point of view. And future-fit CIOs already seem to be making the right moves.
“Work culture and employee experience forever changed, whether we like it or not, making those CIOs that enable these new experiences in the real and virtual worlds seamlessly a beacon for talent,” wrote Matthew Guarini, VP, Research Director, Forrester, in his ‘Prediction 2021’ blog.
In the hybrid future, companies might invest more on building small regional and satellite offices and co-working spaces while gradually phasing out their centralized office spaces. It would also allow companies to reimagining recruitment and talent acquisition to include a wider range of potential candidates.
All of these trends are likely to present new challenges to technology leaders. To address these new requirements, CIOs are aligning their IT investments towards areas such as:
- Workplace management/desk hoteling software to help incorporate agile & safe workspace practices.
- Cloud-based collaboration tools that allow seamless collaboration for employees working across locations.
- Cybersecurity to address the next-gen security threats.
- Increased intelligent automation (AI, ML, RPA, Process mining) to automate and unify business process.
But the most important focus area, while enabling these new solutions, will be a scalable, robust and flexible cloud infrastructure. The global pandemic has already massively accelerated enterprises’ journey to cloud. The need for a hybrid work environment will further push the cloud demand. As Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy quite aptly stated at the AWS Re:Invent 2020 conference, COVID-19 has been the biggest change in the history of cloud computing. The pandemic taught us that cloud is the only way to work and that may not change in the near future. Whether it’s remote or hybrid work models, cloud will form the baseline for agile and resilient workplaces of the future.