The enterprise workplace has changed significantly over the past few years with the rapid adoption of hybrid work. Organizations across all industries can leverage digital workspaces to implement hybrid work models that (1) provide employees with a superior user experience, (2) meet security, productivity, collaboration, and employee satisfaction goals for the business, and (3) are manageable for IT.

The way forward is implementing a digital workspace solution that can deliver a high-quality user experience for a wide variety of employee needs and keep business information secure. Digital workspaces closely replicate the on-premises experience when an employee is off-site or at home, so employees can continue to be productive wherever they want to work.

What is a digital workspace?

Digital workspaces allow employees to access their work in real-time, from anywhere they have a network connection and using any device. It encompasses virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), data centres, edge, workstations, and applications, whether onpremises or in the cloud, endpoints, collaboration technologies, management and administrative tools, as well as secure access policies and tools.

The virtual nature of digital workspaces makes them highly accessible—corporately managed devices that remain in an office space aren’t a requisite to securely access company data and applications.

 A digital workspace that lives on a cloud or on a server stack can be accessible on employee’s devices, Zero Clients, and Thin Clients.

Digital workspaces include collaboration features so employees and peers can work together on the same project—even on the same workspace—when they aren’t physically in the same space. They also allow users to share resources. Teams in the same city, or even around the world in different time zones, can leverage shared hosts and applications. To find out more on how to create secure, collaborative and productive digital workspaces click here. For more information on ensuring secure access to digital workspaces click here.

Remote Work

As the new year gets underway, organizations are looking beyond the challenges, volatility and reactive mode of the past few years and strategically planning their future to compete and thrive. Two topics that are top of mind are where work gets done and the related impact on office real estate investments and the role of the office going forward.

While there is no one size fits all and each leader and worker have their point of view, it’s often helpful to get a data-driven perspective to understand the bigger picture and to guide the way to proactive decisions best suited for each organization.

Aruba is a leader in delivering best-in-class modern workplaces and technology. To remain at the forefront, Aruba works on thought leadership and research to help our customers stay ahead.

With that mindset, Aruba teamed up with Leesman, a leader in measuring the quality and effectiveness of workplaces, to deep dive into extensive survey responses from recent surveys of approximately 125 corporate real estate and 75,000 worker and manager respondents as well as historical surveys of approximately 7,000 organizations and 1,000,000 respondents.

We’re delighted that Aruba and Leesman are widely sharing the results of this research via an eBook titled “Powering Hybrid Work 2023” and the full research report titled “The Future of Work and the Workplace: Insights from Leesman Global Survey.”

At a time when there are major shifts happening with work, workplaces, and technology, it’s sometimes difficult to discern what is a fad or the beginning of a trend. To set your organization on the best path into the future, here are a few key findings and insights from the research for your consideration.

The future of work is hybrid.

For corporate real estate respondent organizations that made a decision about where employees will be working in the future, the vast majority of 93% decided on a hybrid workplace strategy. While the percentage of time working in the office vs. mobile varies across regions, business sectors, ages, etc., it’s clear from the survey results that hybrid work is here to stay.

Corporate real estate investments are changing.

Real estate and workplace investments are aligning with the hybrid work strategy. In the past 12 months, 83% of survey respondents made physical changes to the workplace to support employee needs. And, in the future, 94% were planning changes with 59% planning a reduction in their real estate footprint over the next 18 months.

Hybrid work is not new. 

Mobile technology (laptops, smartphones), ubiquitous connectivity (cellular, Wi-Fi), cloud-based access to data and applications, and collaborative tools like Microsoft Teams, WebEx, and Zoom have long enabled the ability to work from anywhere. Survey results indicate that the percentage of respondents categorizing their work styles as hybrid varied little between pre- and post-pandemic periods. Yet, what has changed significantly is the percentage of time working in the office vs. hybrid as well as the acceptability of working hybrid.

Hybrid is the optimal working model.

What may have been surprising for many was how successful the sudden change from mostly office to mostly home-based work was. The survey data gives interesting insights into that.

Respondents ranked hybrid as the optimal working model across ALL 21 key work activities. Leesman concludes that an optimal situation occurs when a respondent can perform each work task in the environment they consider optimal for the task.

And, for ALL roles, demographics, and timeframes (before, during, and post-pandemic), the most important work activity is “individual-focused work, desk-based” per approximately 80-90% of respondents. For today’s digital savvy workers, that individual-focused work can happen anywhere.

IT and office infrastructure enable hybrid work.

Hybrid and office workers have different work patterns and requirements in and out of the office. Hybrid workers are more mobile and need tools that deliver the same enterprise-class workplace experience anywhere (i.e., high-performance Wi-Fi and modern laptop computers). When in the office, they need workspaces for collaboration (i.e., small conference rooms), connection (i.e., breakrooms and gathering areas), and individual-focused work (i.e., quiet spaces to “get their work done”). And, the greater amount of time working out of the office, the less dedicated, personalized workspaces they need in the office.

Adapting work and workplaces in 2023

As leaders and workers refine their optimal hybrid work and workplace strategy (including some that are mandating pre-2020 primarily office-based strategies), many are taking this opportunity to consider impacts beyond themselves to their families, communities, business sectors and the Earth’s environment to find better, more sustainable ways to operate in the future.

The eBook and full report provide a deeper dive into the survey insights to help leaders and workers move forward from past paradigms to embrace modern work, offices, and technology that enable optimal outcomes now and in the future.

To learn more, visit us here.

Remote Work

When we think of digital transformation, perhaps no other technology comes to mind as quickly as the cloud. Many businesses have, in some form or another, been migrating their operations to the cloud for years now. But that doesn’t mean legacy systems suddenly cease to exist. A 2022 survey of business leaders by Rocket Software found that 56% of decision-makers said mainframe solutions still make up a majority of their IT infrastructure. Relying strictly on mainframe or cloud solutions prevents businesses from capturing the full power of their tech stacks.

So how do organizations tap into that power to drive new innovations and greater business value? Hybrid cloud solutions hold the key. Hybrid cloud brings much needed agility and resiliency that can help businesses stay ahead of the curve when it comes to innovation. But getting a hybrid cloud implementation right isn’t a straightforward task.

So, what should you know when starting down the path to hybrid cloud? Here are a few things to consider along the way.

Hybrid cloud optimizes workloads and cuts costs

Over time, digital transformation creates layers of tools and data that ends up stacking on top of each other each time a process is modernized, or a new tech is implemented. So, it’s easy to imagine how over the course of years, a company’s tech stack can become increasingly complex and bogged down by the sheer weight of those layers—particularly on the mainframe where much of early enterprise modernization has happened.

With hybrid cloud solutions in place, the mainframe no longer needs to be the sole home for all a business’ data storage needs. This is important when you consider that not all data is created equal. Some data can be more effectively utilized in the cloud while other data is best secured on the mainframe. Moving data into the cloud is also highly cost-effective, reducing the cost of maintaining mainframe systems and freeing up capacity for mission-critical storage. Transferring some of that content into the cloud not only frees up capacity but also greatly reduces strain on the mainframe itself.

Hybrid cloud puts an end to data siloes

No matter the size of the business, they all deal with huge amounts of data. But, due in part to years of modernization projects and new technologies, not all that data may be visible across the enterprise, making a wholesale cloud migration complex, if not totally impractical. Obviously, if you want to make the most of your company’s data you need to have total visibility into where it all exists. With that in mind, hybrid cloud strategies are one of the most effective tools for breaking down and preventing those siloes from emerging.

With hybrid cloud solutions, businesses gain the ability to connect their mainframe with the broader organization, enabling more people to utilize that data. Coupling mainframe and cloud technologies in a hybrid approach allows for the creation of newer interfaces that can demystify aspects of the mainframe for new waves of employees, ensuring that no data goes unnoticed or underutilized.  

Hybrid cloud drives better value for mainframe data

In such a competitive world, businesses need to capitalize on every advantage they have. And for businesses, a lot of potential lies in their data, much of which can be used to increase opportunities and drive new innovations. But with the problem of data siloes looming, it often lives in very disparate locations. This makes deciphering and harnessing that data easier said than done. Harnessing that data means companies need to not only gather it but also look at it in a way that creates meaningful insights.

Hybrid strategies allow businesses to bring mainframe data into cloud-based analytical tools, generating new value without risking potentially sensitive information. And with tools like Rocket Data Virtualization (RDV), that data can be pulled into new views capable of being analyzed by anyone, whether it’s IT staff, business analysts, or leadership. Tools like RDV bring data together in a way that greatly simplifies access and interpretation of information, no matter the source.

Hybrid holds the key to your data’s true potential

At a time where every business is looking for ways to beat out the competition, hybrid cloud strategies and solutions may hold the answer. There’s no greater asset for enterprises than their own data, and hybrid cloud solutions give them the tools to fully tap into that potential.

Data Management

Though three-quarters of U.S. employers now offer hybrid work, some retailers have been slow to embrace emerging hybrid work models, even for corporate employees. We spoke with Ashok Krish, Global Head of Digital Workplace at TCS, about how hybrid work will impact employers – and their employees – in the retail industry.

Do you believe hybrid work is here to stay?

Hybrid work is absolutely here to stay. While retail has always had a sizeable frontline workforce, there has always been an asymmetry in technology investments. Knowledge workers in a traditional office setting have historically been more invested in technology than frontline workers. But the pandemic has forced a rethink. Digital enabled frontline workers are more crucial to the organization’s long-term success than ever before.

How will hybrid work change the employee experience in the retail industry?

In the context of retail, where one might argue that a hybrid model of work has always existed (frontline workers vs. knowledge workers), the transition required now is more subtle. The focus now is on technology investments that allow more fluidity between frontline and knowledge work and slowly blur the distinction between these roles. Retailers that invest in workplace technologies that allow anyone in any role to work effectively in both a frontline as well as a traditional office/home capacity will succeed.

Empowering frontline workers with better real-time analytics, decision support, and devices that help them spend less time doing boring, repetitive work is a crucial investment for retailers to make.

What are some of the challenges hybrid work poses for employers in the retail sector?

One of the biggest challenges hybrid work poses for retail is churn. Retailers employ a large number of transient/temporary workers who need to be onboarded and offboarded rapidly, while enabling others’ contextual knowledge to be delivered to them and simultaneously capturing their tacit knowledge while they are working. This means that traditional ways of managing knowledge and enabling collaboration simply do not scale for this workforce. The investment in AI-backed continuous skilling and just-in-time training experiences for frontline workers will be crucial in overcoming this particular challenge.

Microsoft’s Work Trend Index found that 48% of employees and 53% of managers say they are burned out at work. What can employers do to improve employee engagement and reduce stress in the hybrid workplace?

Employers need to rethink the rituals of work. Retail organizations need to rethink how their frontline workers collaborate in real time with the rest of the organization. Employees waste time finding information, finding people, setting up meetings, and cleaning data. Everyone spends more time looking for information than acting on information. It’s a discouraging, stressful environment. To change it, managers must transform their processes and their culture. They must embrace new technology stack metaphors (such as Microsoft Teams vs. email) to become more efficient. They must learn to become effective facilitators of digital processes and distributed teams.

How can retail organizations use technology to improve communication, collaboration, and productivity, while maintaining security and preventing fraud?

Companies can no longer expect employees to attend town hall meetings and read company newsletters. Technology can help them target the right messages to the right demographic in the right form factors. For example, you can ask ChatGPT to reduce a 900-word report to a 50-word summary or generate a video, which you can send on a mobile phone.

Tools like Microsoft Teams break down silos and enable collaboration across the organization. Once managers set access controls, the platform worries about security, freeing people to exchange ideas without constraint. But at the same time, the design and configuration of these collaboration systems will make the difference between creating a noisy, unproductive culture of collaboration and a personable, productive one.

Automation, AI, and the cloud can save employees tremendous amounts of time. Instead of attending two-week training sessions, employees can receive nudges from a virtual assistant to acquire new skills as they work. In the near future, knowledge assistants powered by large language models, purpose-built for specific industry domains, will augment every employee’s productivity by providing contextual knowledge on demand.

Retail companies have historically been early adopters of technology and will need to continue to increase their momentum of change. The traditional dichotomy between build vs. buy has given way to a “no-code vs. pro-code” approach – employees will expect new capabilities to delivered quicker than ever before.

With cloud-based software, front-line employees can see back-end customer information in real time, increasing upselling, cross-selling, and client satisfaction. Bringing business tools into the flow of collaboration will create more frictionless experiences and enable more agile collective decision-making.

These capabilities can help to eliminate workplace pain points, greatly improving the employee experience. Without a great employee experience, you cannot create a great customer experience.

At the same time, companies must maintain secure environments and prevent fraud. Companies must invest in newer tools that give them wider and deeper visibility into their threat landscape and leverage built-in AI and machine learning to proactively manage threats and reduce alert fatigue. The future of security is to largely automate responses to standard threats while investing in education and change management to prevent social engineering and attacks on individuals.

How does TCS help organizations reimagine the future of work for their employees?

We provide a comprehensive solution combining infrastructure, applications, and human resources expertise into a single package that helps retail organizations deliver an outstanding hybrid work experience. My group includes people who do everything from designing applications to mapping workflows to managing the inner workings of a cloud framework, including reinventing productivity and the future of work with AI using Microsoft 365 Copilot.

TCS also invests in behavioral science research to help organizations prepare for the workplace of the future. How can retail companies accommodate gig work? How should AI collaborate with human beings? No one knows the answers to these questions yet, just as no one knew until recently how to manage hybrid work. By peering into cutting-edge technology, we can pass along insights that keep our clients ahead of the curve.

Discover how you can transform meeting culture, help managers to be more effective, and drive employee engagement.

Tata Consultancy Services

Ashok Krish Global Head of Digital Workplace, TCS
Ashok Krish is the Global Head of the Digital Workplace unit at TCS, which helps customers reimagine the future of work for their employees. His team works at the intersection of design, technology, and behavioral science, and helps conceptualize and implement modern, persuasive, and immersive employee experiences. Outside of work, he is a columnist, musician, and a food science enthusiast.

Employee Experience, Remote Work, Retail Industry

AMD CIO Hasmukh Ranjan sits at the cloud’s crossroads. As a chipmaker, AMD is a vital supplier for the public cloud’s compute engine, and among Ranjan’s key remits is to support the engineering of semiconductors that power the cloud. But as a consumer, Ranjan, like all CIOs, must decide where best to place his company’s workload bets. And for AMD’s most critical engineering applications, the answer remains its own data centers — not the cloud.

That’s because chipmakers like AMD require mega cores of compute power and memory, as well as petabytes of storage, to run their design applications. Still, one year into his post, Ranjan says nearly 95% of AMD’s business applications run on public clouds.  It’s just that the mammoth engineering applications AMD creates for making the processors won’t run on the cloud, Ranjan says.  

“For engineering, for our sweet spot, cloud providers don’t have those high-end machines we’re looking for,” he says, noting that AMD’s design applications require up to 64GB per core “and we stretch up to 2 to 4 terabyte systems as well.”

And those massive requirements continue to grow in three vectors — “variety, velocity, and volume,” Ranjan says, alluding to AMD’s broadening product portfolio, the high speed of AMD’s design work, and the vast amount of data generated in the chip design process. 

Because of this, Ranjan expects AMD’s digital infrastructure will remain hybrid for some time, with business processes in the cloud and engineering on-premises until massive HPC workloads are widely supported on the public cloud. Gartner analyst Sid Nag, however, points out that cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services offer instances that go up to 224 cores, with companies already running HPC workloads in the cloud.

The shifting nature of chip design

Not all of AMD’s chip engineering process is performed on-premises, Ranjan says, noting that between 10% and 15% of AMD’s computations occur on the cloud, typical for the industry.

Because of the engineering requirements, most chipmakers work with electronic design automation (EDA) vendors such as Cadence Design Systems, Synopsys, and Siemens on-premises from start to finish — serving the final blueprints of the designs directly from the data center to the manufacturing partners and fabs. This tightly integrated process also guarantees data integrity and security.

But that is changing. AMD’s Ranjan points to Marvell Semiconductor’s partnership with AWS, announced in February, as an indicator that semiconductor companies want to use the cloud more in all aspects of their production. According to the announcement, Marvell selected AWS as its cloud provider for EDA in order to take a cloud-first approach to chip design.

“But this industry has been a bit slow in adopting the public cloud for technical reasons, and commercial ones, too,” Ranjan says. “For high-end systems, the pricing difference between ground and cloud can be very, very steep.”

While chip design and manufacturing have not changed much, analysts say that all semiconductor companies have tight partnerships with cloud providers. Together, for instance, they have designed and built specialized HPC cloud services to accommodate some workloads for this very important vertical.

George Westerman, a senior lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management and founder of the Global Opportunity Initiative, notes that the decision process to run engineering designs on-premises or on HPC clouds is the same for any enterprise: cost of access, cost of delays to data transmission, and cybersecurity concerns.

HPC clouds from mainstream providers and chip design services such as Cadence, Synopsis, and Marvell are in essence industry clouds for the semiconductor industry. The only distinction is that chipmakers work directly with their manufacturing partners or fabs to move on-premises engineering designs for producing product.

“The semiconductor side is larger than what the cloud side can handle today,” says Risto Puhakka, director of products at TechInsights, a technology manufacturing consulting firm in San Jose, Calif. “Those data flows are incredibly massive and they create a dedicated pipeline to move that data to TSMC to make the masks for their wafer processing.”

Transforming IT

Meanwhile, as Ranjan acquires and nurtures more engineering talent to produce the best products, he is also transforming the digital infrastructure of the company to meet business goals — using the cloud as much as possible. For example, Ranjan says, AMD recently moved its SAP applications to a public cloud.

The CIO is also tasked with ensuring AMD has a massive data repository and analytics to extend sufficient resources to his engineering team. Here, AMD has implemented a leading data lakehouse, automated applications, and AI algorithms on AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and Oracle Cloud. All this to align with AMD’s C-suite aspirations to better enable HPC workloads for all cloud customers through chip advancements, something Ranjan is tackling by providing his engineers with state-of-the-art hybrid platforms on which to design the chips.

All seems to be flowing in a positive direction, Ranjan says.

“The bulk of computations happen from our large data centers in the US — one in Atlanta and the rest sprinkled around the world,” he says, adding that 54% of AMD’s server fleet is less than two years old. “We are very current. That enables not only very efficient computing but that’s a sweet spot for sustainability as well.”

The value of AI

As for business, the semiconductor industry has been on a roller coaster ride of supply and demand over the past decade. Most recently, the pandemic slowed the supply of materials, which in turn slowed the manufacturing process and led to a significant chip shortage. That shortage has abated as of late (except in automotive industry) as possible recession has slowed demand for consumer devices, PCs, and servers, Ranjan says.

But what has kept demand strong for companies such as AMD, Intel, and Nvidia is the ongoing growth of cloud hypervisors and, more recently, increasing desire for machine learning models and platforms such as ChatGPT.  

Ranjan’s designers are also big consumers of AI and those tools are steadily becoming integrated into AMD’s design process. In addition to highly specialized EDA tools from Cadence, Synopsis, and Siemens, the semiconductor workflow requires source code management systems and increasingly, AI.

“We are trying to supplement that environment with new AI technologies and tools that are available,” he says. “They are in different stages of deployment and some are developed internally and some partner with different AI vendors.”

Rising to the occasion

While Ranjan’s relationship with the cloud may be atypical, his core job is the same as CIOs at all enterprises, he says: aligning IT investment with the business needs and goals of the organization at large.

To do so, Ranjan believes CIOs needs to be a half step ahead of the business side in order to scale and support the company’s evolving directives and to provide the infrastructure needed by the various constituencies of their companies, both business and technical.

It’s a balancing act, but the role of the CIO in the C-suite has evolved in step with the industry’s overall digital transformation. The IT department is not just a cost center anymore; quite the contrary, he says.

“The dream is that you create value for your company and you are aligned with your company’s business,” Ranjan says. “The first thing I look for is whether the solutions that I’m creating are 100% aligned with the changing business needs of the company. I aspire to be in that mode on a daily basis.”

Cloud Computing, Digital Transformation, High-Performance Computing, Technology Industry

After recent rounds of high-profile layoffs, a lot of technologists are looking for work in a market that’s different from any they’ve experienced. More companies are now set up to support remote work, which offers candidates a wider range of potential employers. The new working models benefit companies, too, since they can now hire people with rare and highly desirable skills, regardless of location.

Yet some organizations still insist everybody come into the office. Ed Toner, for example, CIO of the State of Nebraska, has a policy of 100% in-office work. “When you decrease face-to-face interaction, you decrease growth and professional development,” he says.

At the other end of the spectrum, and half a world away, other organizations accept fully remote arrangements—at least for some positions. “When you need highly skilled workers in a sparsely populated country, you benefit from a policy that allows remote work in suitable roles,” says Jarkko Levasma, Government CIO for Finland.

Overall, however, most IT leaders now favor hybrid work, which usually means at least three days a week in the office. According to Gartner’s Human Resources Research Team, employee expectations for a flexible work environment have grown—and hybrid work is clearly here to stay.

Forward-thinking IT leaders have already thought a lot about how to best implement hybrid work, and this extends well beyond technology. It also means providing emotional support to a dispersed workforce. Job seekers should target companies that address all the needs of people who work at least part-time from home.

Getting the technology right

The most obvious thing CIOs need to do to support a remote or hybrid work environment is provide the right technology. But there’s more to it than that. “As soon as you start heavily supporting remote work, your footprint increases significantly,” says Irvin Bishop, Jr., CIO of Kansas City-based engineering firm Black & Veatch. “This significantly raises your security concerns.”

Black & Veatch supported remote work before Covid-19, but during lockdown, they deployed more collaboration tools including virtual whiteboards, polls, and voting so people could still brainstorm and share perspectives. “It’s not always easy for people who are not in the same room to be recognized and given equal airtime and attention,” he says.

The company, which already supported over 100 different office sites, implemented additional virtual system monitoring tools to support a larger population of home workers. These monitoring tools make sure systems are up and functioning—a much easier task when everybody’s in the office connected on WiFi or Ethernet. Also, keeping infrastructure working flawlessly takes an even higher priority when people are remote, because they can’t do anything if they can’t connect.

During the pandemic, Bishop found that managers had to adapt to radically different schedules as employees got accustomed to having more control over tasks. They started earlier, finished later, or worked whatever schedule best suited their lifestyles and family. “Now they expect that level of autonomy,” says Bishop. “Managers have to be attentive to these new expectations.”

French multinational tire manufacturer Michelin also supported home working before Covid-19, but only as an exception. About 10% of employees worked from home from time to time—and even for those people, it was only for about one day a week. The company had already undergone a complete upgrade of their Microsoft stack to a modern cloud solution in 2018, so they were well prepared when the pandemic struck.

“One of the mistakes we made during the lockdown was having people turn their camera off during Teams meetings to save bandwidth,” says Yves Caseau, group digital & information officer at Michelin. “We quickly found out that if the goal of a meeting is to have people collaborate and be creative, it’s best to have them work face to face. But if they cannot be in the office, they absolutely need cameras on. So we increased our bandwidth to support more video traffic.”

Like Michelin, German rail logistics company DB Schenker supported remote work on a very limited basis before the pandemic. “About five percent of the staff worked from home,” says Fredrik Nordin, CIO of DB Schenker for Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland. “And those people only worked remotely for one day every two weeks. Even with a limited number of employees working from home before Covid, when the lockdowns came, we were well prepared in terms of technological tools.”

Understanding the emotional impact

But technological tools aren’t enough for companies who’ve decided to support a hybrid work arrangement from now on. What’s needed is more emotional support and more team building. According to a Gartner report from May last year, only 24% of remote and hybrid knowledge workers feel connected to their organization’s culture. And who better to turn to for questions of employee well-being than an HR expert? “Remote work has decreased the sense of belonging, and increased the feeling of loneliness and isolation,” says Kirsi Nuotto, SVP and head of HR for VTT, an institute for applied research in Finland. “During the pandemic, we trained all of our managers on emotional agency.”

Managers need to tune into how employees cope when separated from their teams. For example, Michelin found that attention management is even more challenging when some workers are remote, and people tend to multi-task even more than they do in the office. Moreover, working from home amplifies some of the stress. “The paradox of digitalization is that some of the good collective practices that help minimize overload are absent when you work alone,” says Caseau. “For example, taking short breaks to talk about something else with a colleague is not only essential to your health, but it also contributes to making teamwork more efficient.”

DB Schenker noticed during the pandemic that even though efficiency went up in the sense of fitting more meetings into a single workday, the lack of corridor talks and spontaneous alignments that act as the glue in a collaborative organization had to be overcome by scheduling even more meetings.

“We learned that working from home, whether forced or voluntary, is perceived very differently from one person to another,” says Nordin. “One person’s joy and happiness over not having to commute to the office is another person’s worst nightmare. Remote work is very tough on the people whose personalities crave interaction with others.”

Despite these challenges, both Michelin and DB Schenker say the flexible work environment provides a net benefit. Both companies now have a hybrid policy, where employees are allowed to work from a home office two days a week.

What’s best for a new generation of employees

With hybrid being normal now for so many companies, top management is looking to fine tune the flexible work environment. “A year after training all managers on emotional agency, we saw an improvement in 12 out of 14 different psychological markers,” says Nuotto. “Encouraged by this tangible difference, we have now extended training to include all of VTT’s 2,200 employees.”

She points out that many people assume this kind of training can be carried out in a matter of hours. But getting it right requires not only classes over an extended period, but also a way of practicing the ideas. Trainees at VTT have “sparring” partners to bounce their ideas off one another outside of class hours, for instance.

Meanwhile, back in Kansas, Bishop says managers need to be more intentional in a hybrid environment. “If you’re facilitating a hybrid meeting, you have to be intentional and ask specifically if there are comments or questions from people who aren’t in the room,” he says. “You can use techniques, such as Round Robin, to go around the table and the screen or phone to get comments from everyone. Another option is to appoint a virtual meeting facilitator to ensure people who are remote can hear the dialog, see the presentation, and contribute equally to the meeting.”

These techniques help build trust, keep collaboration high, and make people feel a lot more included. Employees want empathy from management—and when they find an organization that makes them feel that, even from their home office, they return the favor through loyalty and productivity.

“We want to be the best place to work on the planet,” says Bishop. “We’re trying to create the best environment, so people love working here.” Bottom line is the new generation of employees expects a hybrid work environment, and they want to be fully supported in their workplace, wherever that may be.

CIO, Employee Experience, Employee Protection, IT Leadership, Remote Work

Flexibility and lifestyle are critical concerns for the modern employee. While the “Great Resignation” – a trend that has caused unprecedented rates of employees quitting and churn over the past few years – looks like it is finally starting to ease, the changes it drove in how business is done will persist. Companies were incentivised to invest in employee welfare and development, and those that do that best are now seeing massive improvements in retention. Going forward, IT and the CIO will play a critical role in facilitating that.

The Human-Centered Insights To Fuel IT’s Vision 2022 report, conducted by Reach3 for Lenovo, highlights the importance of IT in delivering employee satisfaction. According to the report:

85 per cent of employees believe technology delivers greater flexibility and control over work.84 per cent say that flexibility has made them more satisfied with their jobs.75 per cent say they are more productive when working from home.

CIOs, meanwhile, also want to deploy technology that will do more than boost productivity and operational efficiency. A full 83 per cent of IT leaders want to deliver digital transformation that is focused on contributing to the greater good.

Delivering hybrid work environments that work

As the Reach3 and Lenovo report notes, driving a hybrid working environment across the organisation is key to meeting employee expectations around flexibility and work/life balance. Employees want to access the office one time per week, and for CIOs, the challenge then is to continue to find ways to enhance the remote working experience so that it can continue to deliver seamless and stress-free working conditions.

Currently, while most organisations allow some form of hybrid work, 29 per cent of employees say that difficulty reaching co-workers is more of a work-from-home issue. Meanwhile, only 47 per cent of IT leaders say that collaboration tools have improved overall productivity and efficiency.

There is a gap between the expectation and experience with hybrid work that technology can address.

As cited in a report on CIO from earlier this year, this means that CIOs need to proactively invest in transformative technologies:

“In its Future of Work predictions for 2023, IDC called hybrid work “a mainstay for our global future work landscape,” adding that “hybrid work will drive new technology solutions across functions and industries alike.”

Technologies cited by IDC include intelligent space and capacity planning tools, which the firm predicts 55 per cent of global enterprises will use to reinvent office locations by 2024. IDC also predicts 65 per cent of G2000 companies will consider online presence to be at parity to real life across their engaged workforce by 2025, with 30 per cent of those same organisations adopting immersive metaverse conferencing tech by 2027.”

With IT budgets being increased by around 50 per cent across the board towards these transformative goals, CIOs have some runway to make these investments. Some of the areas that they should be looking at include:

5G. As 5G rolls out to more locations across Australia, it will become a more viable tool for working. With speeds that are greater than what the typical home Internet connection can provide, as well as better latency and mobility, 5G is set to underpin a new wave of changing work styles and remote capabilities.Secure solutions. The kind of BYOD that tends to come with remote working environments does present security implications, and while VPNs and zero-trust security solutions can help, many organisations need to go further than that. Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) such as the Lenovo VDI Hosted Desktop seeks to address this challenge by maintaining secure control over corporate data while still allowing employees to access it remotely as they need to.Peripherals and accessories that promote wellness. CIOs will also find benefits in providing employees with headsets that have AI-powered noise cancelling features, as well as standing desks and computers that feature eye care modes. Additionally, webcam privacy shutters are essential – people want to be able to use their webcams for meetings, but also to guarantee their privacy outside of work hours, given that the technology is in their homes.

A good example of technology built to capitalise on these trends is the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, powered by Intel vPro, An Intel Evo Design. With leading connectivity, security and built-in capabilities, it has been built for what IT needs and users want.

There are benefits to partnering with an end-to-end supplier for remote work

One of the challenges that many CIOs face is that in the initial rush to enable remote work, a few years ago, many organisations adopted technology piecemeal. This has consequently resulted in a large portfolio of vendors to manage. This creates inefficiencies and can frustrate employees when connections don’t work, and technology incompatibilities hinder what they need to do.

Consolidating the number of vendors down to a single end-to-end provider, and delivering technology that has been designed to be seamlessly interoperable is going to significantly enhance the remote working experience for employees, while freeing the IT team up to shift focus from support to further transformation and innovation.

For more information on Lenovo’s end-to-end solutions and the benefits that delivers to hybrid work environments and employee satisfaction, click here.

Lenovo

A significant number of organizations are operating in a hybrid model — and expect to continue with that hybrid environment for the foreseeable future.

Global analytics and advice firm Gallup has found that the percentage of remote-capable workers working in a hybrid environment increased in 2022, moving from 42% in February to 49% in June. Gallup also found that only 20% of remote-capable employees were working fully on-site while 30% were fully remote in 2022. Furthermore, the firm had predicted that the number of hybrid workers would continue to increase, hitting 55% as we enter 2023.

Other reports confirm that hybrid work is here to stay. In its Future of Work predictions for 2023, IDC called hybrid work “a mainstay for our global future work landscape,” adding that “hybrid work will drive new technology solutions across functions and industries alike.”

Technologies cited by IDC include intelligent space and capacity planning tools, which the firm predicts 55% of global enterprises will use to reinvent office locations by 2024. IDC also predicts 65% of G2000 companies will consider online presence to be at parity to real life across their engaged workforce by 2025, with 30% of those same organizations adopting immersive metaverse conferencing tech by 2027.

While metaverse adoption is a ways off, CIOs are making significant investments in technologies aimed at improving the hybrid work experience. For example, Foundry’s 2022 State of the CIO survey shows that IT executives are investing in cybersecurity improvements and collaboration platforms better suited to their organizational needs as well as network reliability and performance improvements.

With competition for talent still tight and pressure on organizations to maximize employee productivity, Anthony Abbatiello, workforce transformation practice leader at professional services firm PwC, says CIOs should focus on what and how they can improve the hybrid experience for users.

He advises CIOs to partner with their counterparts in HR to identify the worker archetypes that exist in their organizations to understand how they work and what they need to succeed.

“CIOs should be asking how to create the right experience that each worker needs and what do they need to be productive in their job,” Abbatiello says. “Even if you’ve done that before, the requirements of people in a hybrid environment have changed.”

Hybrid workers today are looking for digital workplace experiences that are seamless as they move between home and office, Abbatiello says. This include technologies that enable them to replicate in cyberspace the personal connections and spontaneous collegiality that more easily happen in person, as they seeking experiences that are consistent regardless of where they’re working on any given day.

Here is a look at how some CIOs are bolstering their technology offerings to improve the hybrid working experience of their IT and business users.

Consistent, high-quality digital experiences

As senior vice president and CIO at Nutaninx, Wendy M. Pfeiffer says she’s seeking to do just that — deliver consistent, high-quality digital experiences that drive productivity and efficiency whether team members are working remotely, in the office, or a combination of the two.

Wendy Pfeiffer, CIO, Nutanix

Nutanix

“The solutions going forward required some innovative technology but also process updates; it’s a mix of those things,” Pfeiffer says, adding that fully remote workers, always on-premises employees, and those that alternate between remote and in-office each face unique challenges in a hybrid environment.

To ensure she and her IT team deliver the right tools for every worker type, Pfeiffer co-developed with other executives the company’s “Principles for Effective Hybrid Work.” She says these helped her, her colleagues, and IT better understand workplace dynamics and requirements so IT can best address them.

“These principles form the basis of our prioritization, our choice of technologies, and are reflected in our [objectives and key results],” Pfeiffer explains. “So now whenever we do something in IT, like release a capability, we have these principles in mind. And we say what we’re doing, the principle it’s related to, and here’s how we measure it.”

Those principles, along with lessons learned during recent years, have helped Pfeiffer sharpen her tech strategy for supporting hybrid work in 2023.

To start, Nutaninx IT has decided to go with applications that perform, act, and look the same whether being accessed in the office or from a remote location to eliminate any confusion or extra layers that workers might have to think through as they do their work. The same goes for any hardware (e.g., laptops) being used. This, Pfeiffer says, will also help minimize or even eliminate lost productivity from context-switching — the shifting from one task to another unrelated one.

As for new tools heading into 2023, Nutaninx IT is rolling out Lucidspark, a virtual whiteboard for real-time collaboration from anywhere. Pfeiffer says her team worked with Zoom, which her company uses, to add Lucidspark into that platform so Nutaninx employees can seamlessly access it even when in those virtual meetings.

IT is also launching a tool from Huddle that uses artificial intelligence for note-taking to support teams that are working asynchronously and need to share ideas and conversations. Pfeiffer says she expects this tool, which workers can also access through the company’s Zoom application, to bring more efficiency to information hand-offs — a critical advantage for employees who, thanks in part to virtual work capabilities, are now often working at different times.

Another addition will be 360-degree cameras and microphones from Owl Labs, which will be deployed in company conference rooms and integrated with Zoom to make those joining meetings remotely feel more like they’re in the room.

Pfeiffer says IT also has a big focus in 2023 on bringing in technologies that enable a consumer-like experience, as employees who have been working from home “are using consumer tech like mobile phones and comfy chairs and gaming computers, and consumer tech runs circles around traditional enterprise technology” in terms of experience. For example, IT is bringing in the Discord voice, video, and text chat app so that workers can have multiple synchronous conversations in parallel, from wherever they are, just as they would in an office environment.

“Everywhere we can, we’re taking lessons from the consumer experience and bringing that to the office,” Pfeiffer adds.

Refining the hybrid work experience

Michael Error, vice president of IT and CIO for Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota, is likewise looking to advance his company’s hybrid work experience with the tech investments he’s making.

Michael Error, VP of IT and CIO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota

“Early on, it was good enough to get our employees home and that they stayed safe and they had the capabilities to get on [company systems],” he says. “Since that time, we have moved to ‘What’s the experience?’ That has meant regardless of where you are, do you feel like it’s all the same. And it’s not just having same from the technology whether you’re remote or not; it’s about making the people all feel they’re part of a team regardless of their location.”

He adds: “We’re trying to drive the same experience whether you’re in the office or remote and driving consistent, high-quality experiences.”

To do that, Error says he and his IT team have been educating employees about using and maximizing existing capabilities, whether its conference room cameras or the whiteboard features in Microsoft Teams.

Error is also rolling out new software-based phones that he says will provide a “less clunky” feel, more flexibility, and a more consistent experience as workers move between in-office and remote locations.

And IT is deploying a collaboration platform from Miro to better meet the needs expressed by hybrid teams, Error says.

Moreover, IT is working with the various business-side groups “to see what’s of interest to them, to evaluate products, and to see if those [products] could benefit the entire organization.”

Error adds: “In 2023, IT will be focused on refinement, what are the little things we don’t have today that will fill in the blanks.”

Turning to tech for seamless continuity

Abhijit Mazumder, CIO at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), is similarly looking to how his IT team can improve the hybrid experience it has already enabled.

Abhijit Mazumder, CIO, Tata Consultancy Services

Tata Consultancy Services

“With things inching back to normalcy, our aim right now is to ensure that employees work with seamless continuity whether from home or the office,” he says, adding that TCS has been investing in technologies — including collaboration software and cloud-based applications — to support a hybrid workforce for more than five years.

“Basic amenities such as provision of huddle rooms linked to other TCS centers have made remote collaboration across the globe possible in a matter of minutes. We are continuously working to ensure a seamless transition to our employees and customers, independent of their physical location,” he adds.

For 2023, Mazumder says the focus will be on “tweaking, sustaining, and scaling our secure borderless workspaces [SBWS] solution and enabling additional capabilities in our offices to enable collaboration.”

He also plans to continue his investments in cloud collaboration, organizational resiliency and cybersecurity as well as the personnel to support all that.

“As a consulting and IT services organization, evolving technologies means scaling talent development. Though we have invested significantly in building a culture of agility within the organization, I think there is more to our journey. Our key focus would be scaling talent development in hybrid work model,” Mazumder adds.

The end-user device as office

Other CIOs are also focused on deploying technologies that can step up their company’s existing hybrid work environment.

Thomas Phelps, CIO, Laserfiche

Laserfiche

Thomas Phelps, CIO at Laserfiche, for example, says his company decided in early 2020 to create a tech stack that would support employees being independent from any specific workstation.

“My philosophy is your office is your laptop and everything you need to be productive is enabled through that laptop,” he says.

That strategy enabled the company to quickly pivot to remote work when the pandemic sent workers home that March and then hybrid as restrictions eased.

Still, he says there’s room for improvement. For example, existing digital platforms aren’t great at fostering ad hoc sessions and replicating spontaneous interactions — in other words, the proverbial “watercooler conversations,” Phelps says, noting, “It is still easier to have those when someone is physically present.”

Phelps is now searching for technologies that can help with that, and as part of that he’s deploying the Miro online whiteboard platform to support hybrid collaboration.

Phelps is also rolling out a new conference room videoconferencing system with zoom cameras, auto framing, streaming options, and other features to create a better, more equitable experience for remote attendees.

Similarly, Laserfiche is enabling captioning on Zoom, including captioning in multiple languages, to support equitable communication quality for all attendees. And he’s focused on ensuring whatever technologies IT deploys can be used on whatever devices workers want to use.

“Enabling work through different devices not just your typical laptop but also your mobile devices is going to be key, as is supporting work from anywhere through the right security architecture centered on zero-trust principles,” he says.

Upgrades and improvements

Ramon Richards, SVP and CIO, Fannie Mae

Fannie Mae

Today, as organizations enter their fourth year of providing remote and hybrid work to many or most of their workers, CIOs often speak about the need to bring continuous improvement — a longtime IT principle — to this space.

For example, Ramon Richards, senior vice president and CIO of Fannie Mae, where most employees can choose where to do their day-to-day work most of the time, talks about improving and enhancing the hybrid work environment.

His plans include evolving the organization’s conferencing capabilities “to create a more immersive experience using new camera solutions and virtual reality.” As Richard explains: “This will further enhance the overall employee experience to securely collaborate remotely and on-site with people both inside and outside the organization.”

He also plans to enhance existing IT support capabilities by adding modern end-user contact channels, such as crowdsourcing to troubleshoot common IT issues so that employees will have additional options to access and receive tech support.

And he is simplifying the organization’s device management capabilities by completing the migration to a common cloud-based intelligence-driven digital workspace platform for unified endpoints, virtual desktops, and mobile application management.

Morever, IT “is focusing on the end-user experience for all service deliveries in 2023, leveraging automation, when possible, to proactively detect and resolve device issues with self-healing capabilities and provide more effective self-service information,” he says. “Coupled with this effort is a cohesive change management process to ensure effective employee communication and adoption of new technologies.”

Bart Murphy, chief technology and information officer, OCLC

OCLC

Bart Murphy, chief technology and information officer of OCLC, a library technology and research organization, says he, too, is continuing to look at technology investments that can improve the hybrid work environment that his company adopted in April 2022 after working almost entirely remotely through the first two years of the pandemic.

“This includes continually upgrading WiFi access points, conference room technology, and meeting spaces for improved in-office connectivity and collaboration. We are in the process of moving to Teams for our phone system to provide more efficient ways to connect both internally with associates and externally with customers,” he says. “We continue to invest in our VPN capacity to ensure those working from home have all the access and performance they need to be productive.”

He adds: “We will continue to be intentional about creating events for all associates intended to experience and build on the strong culture that exists at OCLC and seek input from associates.”

Collaboration Software, Remote Work, Staff Management

What was once an anomaly is now a global reality as remote and hybrid work models settle in across industries. To adapt to this new “new normal,” organizations will need to reinforce their workforces with technologies that can keep pace.

In 2022, the percentage of remote workdays in the US soared above the pre-pandemic levels of 5 percent to reach 30 percent.[1] Though some high-profile CEOs are now instating strict return-to-office policies, most are finding ways to compromise. Employees say remote work increases their ability to focus and supports a work-life balance while saving them the time and expense of commuting. Companies benefit by keeping or acquiring geographically-dispersed top talent often attracted to a flexible work environment. 

While more than half of C-suite executives agree on the need to reimagine workforce models, only a quarter feel their organizations are ready to address the evolving environment, according to Deloitte’s 2023 Global Human Capital Trends report.[2] In this arena, desktop virtualization and cloud technologies will play starring roles.

Notably, businesses are adopting virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) as a way to keep data secure, teams collaborative, and staff productive while reducing costs. VDI adoption also comes with challenges—obstacles that can be overcome by following the right road map.

Understanding VDI

As a virtual desktop solution, VDI enables remote workers to interact with an operating system and software the same way they would if working locally—on a network-delivered endpoint device. Driven by the growth of cloud-based technologies, the global VDI market is projected to reach a value of more than USD78 billion by 2030.[3]

When staff members are spread out across geographic regions, VDI makes it easier for IT teams to deploy, defend and manage an infrastructure that’s designed to be accessible from multiple devices in multiple locations. This means IT can provide productive, collaborative end user experiences, running company applications and full desktops. It also means keeping data protected behind a corporate firewall which helps maintain security without sacrificing performance. 

Additionally, VDI can reduce operational costs in two ways. First, IT staff can control and manage workstations from their headquarters rather than manually update each desktop. Second, flexible consumption and payment options enable an organization to respond to varying infrastructure demands.

But there are drawbacks. Many IT leaders looking adopt or expand VDI face significant hurdles: long planning and procurement cycles, management complexity, and higher than anticipated infrastructure costs. There are, however, proven methods to overcome these hurdles and ease into the age of remote and hybrid work.

Laying a Technology Foundation

Consider the use case of Montage Health[4] which delivers care to 500,000 people annually through multiple entities in Monterey County, California. Emerging from the pandemic, Montage Health leaders aimed to continue and optimize telehealth, telemedicine, virtual care, and virtual visits. 

The organization relies on an extensive VDI environment, with terminals on each clinical floor to provide the applications and information required for patient care and staff collaboration. However, VDI latency issues were decreasing productivity and threatening to impact care levels. 

“We wanted to ensure that we have a top-of-the-line infrastructure to run our VDI solution,” said Tahir Ali, CTO and CISO, Montage Health. They opted to run VDI in a private cloud with a pay-as-you-go consumption model. The solution, based on APEX Private Cloud from Dell Technologies, offers teams the flexibility of working in the cloud while controlling the costs that would incur using a public cloud. It also allows Montage Health to scale to meet new business demands including video and virtual visits for patients.

In the past, it would take physicians, nurses, and other clinicians an average of 100 seconds to log into a VDI terminal. By deploying VDI on a private cloud, Montage Health was able to reduce login times to an average of 30 seconds—saving 70 seconds per session. Ali noted the organization’s enhanced VDI performance and control over its IT environment along with the advantages of a predictable cost model for planning.

Empowering the Anywhere Workforce

As organizations like Montage Health embrace new workforce models, they will need to simplify and accelerate the process of acquiring VDI—in a way that’s cost-effective. Many proactive teams are relying on Dell Technologies.[5]

Dell solutions support on-demand environments with infrastructure and services customized to order, accessible via pay-per-use or an enterprise-scale managed utility. A Forrester Total Economic Impact Study[6] commissioned by Dell Technologies found the following benefits of using Dell Validated Designs for VDI. Organizations surveyed for the study reported being able to:

Modernize while decreasing both costs by $3.3 million over three years, and security risksIncrease productivity by providing users the flexible, safe and efficient environments they needProvide accessibility for both knowledge workers and high-compute usersReduce IT support requirements resulting in nearly $800,000 in savings over three years

Remote and hybrid workforce models are not going away. Neither is the directive for employees to be productive and collaborative, nor the needs to protect data and keep costs low. 

Modern enterprises and public organizations are answering these demands by implementing VDI. With remote, secure access to virtual desktops and company applications from any device or locale, organizations should be able to ease into this new environment and maintain if not enhance their levels of business performance.

Discover how your organization can enable employees to be productive on their own terms. Click here to learn more

***

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/07/business/dealbook/remote-work-downturn.html

[2] https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/focus/human-capital-trends.html

[3] https://www.digitaljournal.com/pr/virtual-desktop-infrastructure-vdi-market-growth-report-2030

[4] https://www.delltechnologies.com/asset/en-us/solutions/apex/customer-stories-case-studies/delltechnologies-hybrid-customer-story-montage-health.pdf

[5] https://www.dell.com/en-us/dt/apex/use-cases/vdi.htm

[6] https://www.delltechnologies.com/asset/en-us/solutions/infrastructure-solutions/industry-market/forrestertei-of-dell-validated-designs-for-vdi.pdf

IT Leadership

Wendy M. Pfeiffer is a technology leader who’s as dedicated to excellence in operations and delivery as she is to maintaining a focus on innovation. She joined Nutanix as SVP and CIO following a successful career leading technology teams at companies like GoPro, Yahoo, Cisco Systems, and Robert Half. Highly regarded by her industry peers for her courageous transparency and candor, Pfeiffer also serves on the boards of Qualys, SADA Systems, and the American Gaming Association (AGA). 

On a recent episode of the Tech Whisperers podcast, Pfeiffer shared her insights about the numerous demands being placed on CIOs today, what she’s gained from her board experiences, and how the ways in which we work are evolving. Afterwards, we spent some time talking through Pfeiffer’s five-part series for “The Forecast by Nutanix” on IT’s role in enabling hybrid work, as well as what she’s learned running IT for a hybrid-first company. What follows is that conversation, edited for length and clarity.

Dan Roberts: What motivated you to produce this series on hybrid work?

Wendy Pfeiffer: Work is now eternally hybrid. What I mean by that is, we’re not going to be able to count on having everyone in the same place at the same time ever again. So, how do we respond to this changed nature of work? Instead of just being observers and saying, “Well, it’s not like it used to be,” how do we focus on changing the methods we use to respond to that?

If I think about my primary mission as an IT professional, it’s to enable technology in service of business and people, and today, business is different. Technology is different. People are different. So, I’ve been thinking about this a lot, studying it, reading, and speaking to folks. And the bottom line is, I didn’t find that anyone had any great ideas.

So, I started thinking about the IT experience as a product, and the employee experience as a product. If I were delivering a product into a new marketplace, I would need to learn everything I could about that marketplace, and then I would need to adjust some parameters of the product to be appropriate. And in doing so, I discovered these simple principles that I think make a difference towards enabling hybrid work.

Hybrid work is asynchronous, so you have to enable asynchronous things. It is characterized by context switching, and context switching has a negative impact on productivity. How do we counterbalance that? There are just all sorts of principles that are at the heart of hybrid work that, if you take them one at a time, we already have some tooling to address. We already have some techniques in use. We already have some design thinking around how to address those things. If we focus our efforts on those, we can improve the nature of work.

Part one focuses on managing constant change. Why should that become a bigger focus in 2023, and what are some everyday ways we can do that in a hybrid workplace?

I think that hybrid work in general is characterized by the change that comes from continuous context switching on purpose. Like most people, I find change to be stressful, and yet, I have developed some ways to deal with change. One is to have a home base, a foundation that’s not changing and that’s solid even as things around it changes. So, I was thinking about how to create a solid foundation in technology, and one of the easiest ways to do that is through ‘anchor technologies.’

In my organization, we have chosen a handful of anchor technologies, and we’ve doubled down on enabling our employees to be very comfortable with them, to always expect that those technologies will be available, functioning, and even to feel expert in them, the same way that you feel expert after you’ve been using your smartphone for a while. We want people to feel like, I’m not just a medium user of Zoom or Slack — I’m a Zoom ninja and know all the secrets. As soon as that competence and bedrock are there, then that gives us the foundation from which to launch new things.

For example, with online whiteboarding, I’m not launching a new technology; I’m launching a new online whiteboarding feature in the context of Zoom. So, I’m minimizing the amount of change the employee has to go through. They already feel comfortable when they see it show up as a feature in one of these anchor technologies.

It’s psychological, but it makes a huge difference in terms of our adoption of new technologies. We find that when we are launching new technologies in the context of our anchor applications, we see a massive uptick in adoption. In the past, we would launch a new technology, and about 30 days in, we would see about a 25% adoption rate. Now we see about an 80% adoption rate. And, you know, that’s a beautiful thing — much less training time, immediate productivity for our employees, etc.

In your second video, you get into asynchronous productivity, and you talk about those ‘watercooler’ conversations that many CIOs are concerned about — chance meetings that foster collaboration and innovation. How has that changed in the hybrid workplace?

Before the pandemic, most of us who worked in global companies already had people who worked in different time zones in different locations all over the world and were part of our teams. But back then, we didn’t care what kind of an experience they had. We didn’t pay much attention to them. You sort of had to be physically in the room, where the conversation was happening, to have a voice in that conversation. So we were leaving some of the productivity of those ‘remote’ participants on the table.

For example, before the pandemic, about 30% of our employees, globally, were full-time remote. They were not associated with a hub office. But 99% of the time, when we would have ideation sessions or strategy or planning sessions, those of us in a US time zone would physically get together in a conference room. If somebody couldn’t be in that conference room, they could be on the call, but they wouldn’t really collaborate and participate. We would use whiteboards, and the very act of stepping up and writing scribbles down on the whiteboard is an exclusive in-room experience. If you’re not in that room while it’s happening, you can look at those whiteboards afterwards and they’re unintelligible. If you’re listening in or you’re even viewing that conversation from a camera in the room, you can’t understand those whiteboard scribblings.

In 2023, we’re looking at fully 60% to 80% of most knowledge workers, at least at some point every week, working remotely. We’re never all going to be back in that room. Therefore, the biggest request I get as a CIO — and it’s usually from senior executives — is related to that: ‘Ideation has stopped; innovation is going to grind to a halt because we can’t all sit in this room and whiteboard together.’

I have a different point of view. I think that perhaps if we can find a way to ideate in a hybrid mode or asynchronously, then we can suddenly take advantage of that 30% of our employee population whom we used to not engage. Now we can have 100% participation.

What are some of the ways you’re doing that?

Asynchronous work requires a steady-state set of content that people can interact with. It requires writing, for lack of a better term. It requires expressing ideas in a context that transcends space and time. And then, of course, not everybody likes to read, not everybody speaks the same language, so we also need tooling that makes recordings and that creates transcripts of those recordings, so that over the course of 24 hours, a global team that might be living in 15 different time zones and 30 different countries can all take part in contributing to a conversation.

We are using tooling that creates persistent ways of communicating so that, even if you’re not in the room where it happens, you can still understand what happened, have a voice in what happens in the future, and make your mark. There are other tools and ideas as well. Nutanix’s Head of Design, Satish Ramachandran, talks about the need to make organizational changes to create ecosystems of collaboration around a time zone radius, so that we treat our global workers more respectfully.

Back in the day when we would have critical meetings in the US time zone, we had another set of executives who were missing dinnertime or getting up at four in the morning to participate. Most of us learned when we were all working from home that that’s incredibly disrespectful to our families and ourselves. People don’t want to go back to that. And yet, those people are key contributors, so we need to find ways of ensuring that we’re respectful of all participants.

Parts three and four are about reducing context switching and focusing on automation and self-service. Why is that important? 

One thing that happens when you are working in multiple modes is that the work itself can become complex and the technologies that we use can become complex. The more that we personalize, the more we have people engaging in using technology from all different contexts — this creates the need to do a little bit of everything.

The question becomes: How can we deal with the complexity of a work environment that’s inclusive of consumer tech and public internet and yet also must be very performant in physical offices and needs to happen across time zones and SaaS applications and on-premises data centers and all of those things? It’s overwhelming even to talk about it!

When we have great complexity and high volumes, those are wonderful times to automate, to take those high-volume tasks, those complex tasks, break them down into components and hand them off to the machine. It’s the same principle behind assembly lines. It’s setting up employees to succeed using the right mix of technologies, processes, and methodologies.

The fifth part explores consumer technology experiences for hybrid work. How do companies benefit by integrating consumer technology into the hybrid work system?

I think one of the things we miss as employers is that over the last 15 years or so, technology has become fun. I’m a huge gamer. I love the art and the science and the capability and the interaction design that’s grown up around that space. I’m a huge proponent of mobile devices. All of these things blend some serious technology, but also with serious fun. There are all kinds of interactions that are available that are just super cool. So why do we have to be so 1980s and sad and serious in the workplace?

If we brought our sense of engagement and our sense of fun and our sense of pleasure in using those technologies to work, what could we achieve, particularly if we’re working in a company that’s making products for other human beings? There’s no rule against me sitting here in my gaming chair, using one of my gaming computers, to do work. I’m even curating my own visual experience. I have this really cool streamer camera that lets me show up beautifully. Even using that consumer tech to curate my appearance is one of the things that’s available to me, so why not have a little fun as I’m working? Why wouldn’t we enable our employees to be comfortable and feel good about themselves and how they’re showing up professionally?

There are multiple studies that show a direct correlation between employee happiness and employee productivity. In fact, many studies show that employees are about 15% more productive when they report their mood as being happy versus their mood as being sad. So why not? Why not have happier employees by using technology to give them the experiences that they enjoy, even while they’re working?

For more from Pfeiffer on the changing nature of work and her passion for developing the human side of technology, tune in to the Tech Whisperers podcast.

Collaboration Software, IT Leadership, Staff Management