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

Technology work attracts neurodivergent people. So if you are leading a tech team, it’s likely that someone in your crew may be on the autism spectrum (ASD), be living with ADHD, or have an auditory processing disorder, learning disability, or other mental difference. Without the right accommodations, many neurodiverse professionals can struggle and, eventually, leave. These modifications are typically not equipment you can install or tasks to add to HR’s plate. They are behaviors and processes that start with you.

“This is the unique challenge of leadership,” says Brian Zielinski, vice president of technology at Circa. “Some of the most productive, talented individuals have challenges in terms of how they interact with others, or with the world. That talent is precious. If you can create an environment where they can be productive, you’ve got a leg up on the competition.”

To accomplish that, you likely need to do more than you are. A recent Wiley study found that 60% of business leaders believe they are working to foster an inclusive culture while half of Gen Z tech workers felt uncomfortable in a job because of their gender, race, ethnicity, socio-economic background, or neurodevelopmental condition. This disconnect is hitting companies hard when it comes to retaining talent. The reason most young tech workers gave (20%) when asked why they left or wanted to leave a role was that they lacked a sense of belonging.

I asked experts how to fix this. And it turns out that most of the adjustments neurodiverse people need are relatively simple and inexpensive to implement.

“And most of what we think of as accommodations make the environment better for everybody,” says Cara Pelletier, M.A., senior director of DEI at holistic performance management platform 15Five. “When you’re implementing something that makes life easier for somebody with a disability, you’re making life easier for everybody.”

1. Ask people what they need

Neurodiversity includes a wide range of styles, disabilities, preferences, and needs. You can’t know what any of those are until you ask, which is the best place to start.

“In most of my internal messaging before a meeting, I ask, ‘Do you need any accommodations?’” explains Chloe Duckworth, co-founder and CEO of Valence Vibrations, which makes digital solutions for neurodiverse teams. “I make sure I’m asking the question in our very first encounter.”

If you are leading a team and have not already done this, you might hesitate to raise the subject.  

“The most important thing you can do as an executive trying to support disabled or neurodivergent employees,” says Duckworth, “is to ask them what they prefer. It can be uncomfortable for people to constantly advocate for themselves without knowing if their boss or peers will be accommodating. So a lot of disabled people don’t feel comfortable disclosing their diagnosis. As executives, it’s incumbent on us to proactively ask employees what they need.”

You might feel that you don’t want to probe into things that aren’t your business, bring up something that might make your team member feel uncomfortable, be rude, or know what to say. You don’t have to ask about their disability or neuro type, though.

“People don’t need a diagnosis — and shouldn’t have to disclose one — for you to be able to accommodate the best way for them to perform in your environment,” says Duckworth. Ask instead, “What type of workplace environment helps you focus,” she says.

2. Build a safe psychological space

If you find that getting people to ask for what they need is a challenge, it may mean that your work environment does not feel safe or that people don’t trust the company.

“The more psychological safety there is in an environment, the more you’re going to find disclosure of what would help people perform best or deliver results best,” says Bettina Greene-Thompson, program manager for DEI talent acquisition at Amazon.

For Circa, this took some effort. “The biggest cultural change was building an environment where individuals felt comfortable sharing,” says Zielinski. “We were not getting that reporting early in our journey. That took bold statements by leadership. We did mental health roundtables, where we split up into groups and talked about our own experiences. I think that humanized it for everybody.”

This was true at Amazon, too. “Having environments where conversations can exist and you can feel seen and authentic, has an impact on how secure an individual feels,” says Greene-Thompson. “I know, for myself, having leadership come forth and identify and be public about it, allowed me to feel comfortable with my own disclosure.”

3. Learn to speak many emotional languages

Some people talk in meetings and chat effortlessly with you and coworkers. Others communicate as if they are being charged a fee for every word. Some gesticulate enthusiastically while others present such a flat affect, you wonder if they spoke at all. The way someone expresses themselves can be the result of ASD, their cultural background, and many other factors. It’s important to listen to the intention and meaning of what people say, not only their emotional delivery.

“About 10% of the worldwide population is estimated to have alexithymia,” explains Duckworth. “This is an emotional perception deficit that commonly coexists with autism, ADHD, and anxiety disorders.”

Emotional perception can have a huge impact on the way your team communicates, though. Duckworth offers an example: Duckworth offers an example from another company that had many brilliant, autistic engineers. All of them raised a red flag that something in the stack was broken. “But because they had a very flat affect in the way they were communicating that challenge, the people on their team didn’t address it appropriately. They didn’t realize how severe the issue was,” she says.

This emotional communication breakdown can happen between people of different genders, cultural backgrounds, and neurotypes, too. “We are trained, neurologically, to interpret emotions by comparing them to people like us,” she explains. “So, if we’re speaking to someone that doesn’t have our same vocal tone patterns to convey emotions, we often misinterpret them and may not realize it.”

4. Document expectations and action items

One simple step that helps every neuro type — and takes the onus of asking for an accommodation off neurodiverse people — is to practice good hygiene around work expectations and the action items that arise in meetings. Use daily, weekly, or monthly checklists to make your expectations clear and easy to reference. And write out action items in the meeting chat or a shared document during the meeting.

“Having clear goals and a checklist of things you’re supposed to accomplish between check-ins is important,” says Pelletier. “People with autism or ADHD also sometimes have auditory processing disorders so they miss part of the conversation, or it takes them longer to process what you’re saying.” That checklist becomes an easy source of truth, viewed by both parties, that can prevent misunderstandings and keep people on track.

“It’s another way to be sure you are on track, which is huge for someone with ADHD, anyone who struggles to prioritize their time, or who’s on the autism spectrum and who may come out of conversations without clarity,” says Pelletier.

5. Offer a written version of meetings and agendas

A simple way to address a wide range of needs is also just good meeting hygiene.

“Make meetings more friendly for neurodivergent people,” suggests Pelletier, “by putting out an agenda ahead of time. This gives people a chance to read it, think about it, process it, and prepare for the meeting.”

Also turn on captioning in meetings and make a transcription of it readily available. This helps anyone with an auditory processing disorder overcome the difficulty of following meetings that are audio only. If you make this standard operating procedure, neurodiverse people for whom auditory processing is a challenge won’t have to ask for anything. And those tools, though often intended for people who are hearing impaired “are also helpful for people in a noisy environment, on their commute, who have kids in the background, speak English as a second or third language, and for lots of other reasons,” says Pelletier. It’s even helpful for people who simply prefer to glance over meeting notes for an idea or task, rather than rewatch a video or listen to a recording.

6. Take a break from meetings

One thing 15Five does to provide a more neurodivergent-friendly workplace culture is to have a day without internal meetings, Pelletier says. Most people on your team will appreciate the uninterrupted time as well as a day where they don’t have to dress up, wear makeup, or be social. But for some neuro types, this is huge.

“For many autistic people, video conversations are mentally and emotionally taxing,” explains Pelletier. “Many autistic people have a difficult time matching their facial expression with their emotions. Behind the scenes, there is another track where I’m thinking, ‘Fix your face so you look engaged. Don’t look angry or upset. Look into the camera. Don’t spend a lot of time looking away. It’s like when you watch a duck go across the water. You see only the bird gliding on top. What you don’t see underneath is the feet paddling like hell. If I can turn the camera off, all I have to do is close my eyes, focus on what I hear you saying, and try to interpret the tone of your voice. I don’t have to worry about what is my face doing.”

Video calls can sometimes be necessary or desirable. But often they aren’t. “Provide the grace and flexibility to allow people to show up in a way that’s going to be most productive for them at that time,” says Pelletier. “Sometimes tiny adjustments like that make a huge difference for people.”

7. Get some training

“Education is the foundation,” says Amazon’s Greene-Thompson. The actions you take in your role as leader are important to the success and productivity of a wide range of neuro types. We all know only our own way of seeing and interacting with the world. But ours might not match what others experience.

To discover what you don’t already know, you have to study. Read about neurodiversity. Invite speakers to give presentations. Take a class. “The more you understand,” says Greene-Thompson, “the more you see that your lived experience is only your own perspective. But how do we understand the lived experience of another? How do we make the work environment more accommodating, equitable, and inclusive for everyone? We start with education, training, presentations, through accessing the latest research, and in seeking out subject matter experts in this field.”

This effort usually has benefits beyond your neurodiverse team. “We find that managers start to think, ‘This is going to work for everybody!’ If I, say, start asking what is your communication style or how can I support you best. For a neurodivergent individual, it might be one thing. For a working parent, it might be ‘Can I start at 10 am? Can we schedule meetings at 11?’”

Everyone is different. When you learn about these differences, you might discover people are struggling with something that’s easy to change.

“When we recognize that everybody’s showing up uniquely and support them delivering their best work,” says Greene-Thompson, “we are much more inclusive.”

Diversity and Inclusion, Staff Management

As organisations seek to re-establish long-term working models, it’s becoming increasingly clear that business cultures must fundamentally change.

To create a productive and motivated hybrid-working model, companies need to actively increase empathy, according to a recent CIO virtual roundtable entitled “Taking the Friction Out of Work”.

At the forefront of this move towards a more people-centred company culture is Slack, which names empathy as a core corporate value.

The firm’s software is used by leading companies including Allianz, Moonpig, PwC, Sainsbury’s and Wise to drive alignment and engagement.

Workplace empathy involves creating an environment where staff feel confident to share their feelings as well as acknowledging that hybrid work blurs traditional work/life boundaries.

The mass adoption of hybrid working has introduced compelling benefits for both employees and employers. Productive, friction-free working, however, isn’t as easy as issuing staff with laptops.

Company culture, and specifically empathy, is key in the new work-from-anywhere era. The CIO roundtable heard from decision-makers in the pharmaceuticals, medical, financial services and logistics sectors, who explained their hybrid working challenges.

These leaders identified a range of issues including on-boarding new employees, unifying employee experience after mergers and acquisitions (M&A), ensuring team members can collaborate wherever they are based on any particular day and ensuring a seamless transition between on-site and remote working for employees who split their time between the two.

“We find team members are less likely to ask questions about a project if they’re working from home, because they don’t want to look like they’re out of the loop,” said one roundtable participant from the financial services sector. “Questioning and interrogating a brief, however, is really important if you want a project to develop and evolve.”

Louise Holmes, Regional Sales Director at Slack, explained that her company’s solutions enable organisations to “build their digital HQ” – a single, virtual space connecting people, tools, customers and partners for faster and more flexible work.

“This approach breaks down organisational silos, making work faster and easier by introducing common processes, uniting people from across the organisation and increasing the accessibility of the tools you need to be productive by placing them in one central location,” Holmes explained.

“The digital HQ is not a replacement for a physical HQ, but it is the one place every employee visits each day and enables the whole organisation to focus on what matters most: delivering quality products and services,” she added.

For example, platforms such as Slack make it possible to set up specific “newbie” channels for new-starters and create workflows that streamline the process of onboarding new starters. “Ask me anything” channels can also be set up for the wider workforce to ensure mission-critical information is always to hand.

For Slack and its parent company Salesforce, however, success isn’t just about technology and where people work; it’s also about how people work.

A study by Future Forum found flexibility ranks second only to compensation in determining job satisfaction. Workers who have full schedule flexibility show 29% higher productivity than workers with no ability to shift their schedule.

Ben Kennedy, Senior Manager for Solution Engineering at Slack, explained that hybrid working blurs the boundaries between work and employees’ private life.

Adopting an empathetic, people-first approach helps both employees and employers navigate these new boundaries more successfully.

Kennedy maintained that an empathetic approach enables a top-down culture of openness, transparency and inclusion among employees – for example, team members feeling comfortable enough to share their real-time status, so colleagues get a sense of where they are geographically, intellectually and emotionally.

“Whether you’ve set time aside to work on an important project, you’re busy on a call, you’re caring for a sick relative, walking the dog or you just don’t feel great that day, an empathetic culture enables employees to be open about where they are at. When you are at your best it is easier to give your best and be more productive,” added Kennedy.

The roundtable also discussed how the nature of work has changed dramatically post-pandemic, with tried-and-tested linear workflows increasingly rejected in favour of a more fluid iterative approach, which is heavily reliant on collaboration for success.

“It’s no longer a case of giving a team member a task and expecting them to do it. Modern working should be about innovation – working together to find new ways to unlock value,” said one roundtable participant from the pharmaceuticals industry.

“In this complex and often ambiguous environment, an empathetic approach, where employees feel safe and their input valued, can increase engagement and help ensure success,” Kennedy said.

Both Holmes and Kennedy said Slack had discovered that empathy is about more than just boosting hybrid teams’ throughput, it’s about taking positive steps to make work-life simpler, more pleasant and ultimately more productive and friction-free for everyone.

Find out more about Slack’s digital HQ solution.

Artificial Intelligence, Remote Work

Under new iterations of remote and hybrid work, the solution for some companies may involve monitoring employees electronically. For CIOs asked to implement such tools, it’s critical to understand the legal and ethical aspects of new technologies.

“No one’s saying you can’t do it. You need to have a really good justification for doing it,” says Jennifer Abruzzo, General Counsel of the U.S. National Labor Relations Board.

Abruzzo will dissect those contours at CIO’s Future of Work Summit, a virtual event taking place February 15. The interactive conference will tackle themes of understanding generational differences, creating a vibrant workplace culture, and implementing innovations such as intelligent automation.

The summit kicks off with a conversation with Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, whose new initiative, Moms First, advocates for public and private sector changes to expand workplace choices for women and to remove barriers to equality.

Later, learn from DXC Technology senior vice president and CIO Kristie Grinnell about how the company implemented a “culture first” strategy to grow its 130,000-strong workforce. And join an intergenerational conversation with human resources expert Anthony Onesto about how Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials in technology leadership positions can build a diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce that will attract Gen Z employees.

Innovative IT leaders should be testing new models of work such as automation. We will take a deep dive into an effort at Johnson & Johnson to apply intelligent automation across a number of areas – an effort that could deliver a billion dollars in value, according to J&J’s Ajay Anand, vice president, global services strategy and transformation; and Stephen Sorensen, senior vice president, technology services, supply chain, data and intelligent automation.

Another area worthy of exploring is implementing low- or no-code platforms. Breaking down the benefits and challenges of distributed development will be Chris Haas, director of product, app engine, at ServiceNow, InfoWorld Contributing Editor Isaac Sacolick, and Computerworld Senior Writer Lucas Mearian.

IDC’s Amy Loomis, research vice president for the Future of Work practice, will share what the latest research shows about the promise of productivity and flexible work models.

How do you put all of these learnings together, especially when so many IT leaders are dealing with burnout — their own and among their staffs? Get answers during an interactive workshop with Lisa Duerre, a Silicon Valley insider and strategist, and learn what it takes to be an effective leader. The session will leave attendees with valuable insights, leadership tools, and a personal action plan to thrive.

Continuing the professional development conversation, Tom Graham, partner and global head of technology at the executive search firm Stonehaven, shares his perspective on the talent landscape as well as tips for how tech leaders can make themselves attractive candidates for their next position.

The day wraps with an exploration of full stack leadership to build high-performing teams. Hear from Carolyn Levy, president of Randstad Technologies Group; Nick Marchand, vice president of digital and technology operations and cyber security at Cineplex Entertainment; and André Allen, vice president of information technology, chief privacy officer and CISO with the MaRS Discovery District.

Throughout the summit, sponsors including Adobe and Nexthink will offer thought leadership and solutions on subjects such as designing human-first, outcomes-driven experiences and obtaining better employee experiences with network orchestration.

Check out the full summit agenda here. The event is free to attend for qualified attendees. Don’t miss out – register today.

Photo: Speakers at CIO’s Future of Work Summit include (clockwise from left) Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Moms First and founder of Girls Who Code; Johnson & Johnson Vice President of Global Services Strategy & Transformation Ajay Anand; and Jennifer Abruzzo, General Counsel of the U.S. National Labor Relations Board.

Human Resources, IT Leadership, Remote Work, Robotic Process Automation

When Pete Torres transitioned to the IT industry after serving in the military, he encountered a noticeable lack of Hispanic representation at conferences and events he attended. Even when he was young, the idea of a career in technology was “not really an option,” he says, owing in part to the IT industry’s decades-long issues with Hispanic and Latinx representation.

Now a director of engineering at Capital One, Torres is among many of his generation seeking to change the equation — and to inspire Hispanic and Latinx students to consider IT as a viable option for developing a meaningful career.

For Torres, having children of his own was a turning point, and he began to think about the importance of instilling an interest in STEM fields at a young age. He considered what he wished he knew when he was younger and looked at how to “propose this potential career path to other people that might not be aware of it,” starting him on a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) journey that continues to this day.

Inspiring a new generation — and diversifying the talent pipeline

According to Pew Research, Hispanic and Latinx professionals fill only 8% of STEM roles in the US workforce, despite representing 17% of the total job market. Furthermore, their labor is valued less by employers, with Hispanic IT professionals earning just 83% of what their White colleagues make, a number that has dipped from 85% in 2016. All this, despite industry-wide efforts in recent years to rectify diversity issues in IT and STEM.

Pete Torres, director of engineering, Capital One

Capital One

For Torres, the path forward requires operating on two timelines at once. First, Torres has worked to strengthen diversity at a professional level at Capital One. And second is his work to help create opportunities for young people to embark on careers in tech. Through Capital One’s Hispanic employee resource group (ERG), Torres and his colleagues have spent a “lot of time reaching out to the youth and driving diversity of thought” across the organization.

This work includes helping to create a more diverse talent pipeline, as evidenced by Capital One’s efforts to connect underrepresented students at the college level with technology opportunities, as well as local chapters’ work with elementary schools. This outreach gives young people a chance to see people working in IT who share their “last name or similar upbringing, out there talking in a suit and tie — it just brings confidence and lets them know that [IT] is now a career path and an opportunity,” he says.

Qualcomm is another company diversifying its talent pipeline through programs that take the underrepresentation of Hispanic and Latinx individuals into account.

Cisco Sanchez, who got his first job at FedEx through InRoads, an internship program that creates career pathways for underserved students, worked his way up the FedEx ranks for 25 years before starting as CIO at Qualcomm just over a year ago. At FedEx, Sanchez was a sponsor of the Diversity Leadership Committee, which he has now carried over to his career at Qualcomm, where he is part of the LatinQ ERG. LatinQ focuses on identifying biases across the organization and helps ensure there are strong talent pipelines that give all employees the same roadmap to success, says Sanchez.

Cisco Sanchez, CIO, Qualcomm


One big move Qualcomm has made in its IT recruiting efforts is to avoid falling into the trap of hiring only from a handful of prestigious colleges and universities, Sanchez says. As someone who came from a nontraditional talent pipeline himself, Sanchez knows there are plenty of IT skills that can be taught to anyone who is motivated and has an interest in learning.

Plus, Sanchez says, with the rapid pace of changing technology, a four-year degree doesn’t guarantee you’ll be up to speed on the latest skills after graduation. As such, Qualcomm has shifted to looking at candidates who have different types of schooling — certificates, non-computer science degrees, and people with no experience who can be quickly trained on the latest coding skills.

“It’s this conscious effort of ‘How do we retrain our mind a bit to start to pivot into a different direction?’ When you open the ability to hire from a larger population of people, you also create the ability to have deeper and more diverse candidates,” he says.

Mentoring to make a difference

The value of mentorship and sponsorship can’t be understated when it comes to fostering and growing your career. But for underrepresented groups in the tech industry, it can be difficult to find mentors and sponsors inside and outside the organization. Mentorship is all about creating connections that help professionals better understand what it takes to go to the next level, says Tim Grijalva, president of GoDaddy LatinX technology and director of learning.

“I think that individuals that have opportunities, whether that’s been through academic, or they’ve had mentors in their life, they’ve had more exposure to understand” what it takes to develop a career, he says. “It’s about conversations. It’s about asking questions to understand how you become manager or director. For folks in the Latin community itself, it’s a challenge because I think not everybody feels that some of those higher achievements are available to them as a Latino. And it’s often hard to understand who you can ask and who you can have the conversations with to understand [a path forward in tech].”

Tim Grijalva, president of LatinX technology and director of learning, GoDaddy


In fact, there was a time when Grijalva himself wasn’t sure if he’d be able to land a job at Go Daddy without a background in engineering. But after getting a job in learning and sales, his career grew with the organization, putting him on the path to leadership.

Capital One’s Torres says he is lucky to have found strong mentorship opportunities throughout his career and credits his mentors as allies whose faith and trust in him helped give him a platform for his career. And now, Torres is paying that support forward.

“I see myself now as being in a position where I can push or pull up people, and that’s extremely important to me. The importance of having that mentorship, awareness, ability to bounce ideas off someone, and to gain perspective and understanding of the way other people think was invaluable to my growth and my development,” says Torres.

The power of ERGs and opportunities to build a path to leadership

Another way companies are helping have an impact is in facilitating — and empowering — ERGs. These groups give employees a safe space where they can connect with others who share similar backgrounds or experiences, giving them stronger connections at work. Such environments can be crucial to empowering employees to voice their opinions and give authentic and genuine feedback, which is vital in moving the company forward.

“In my experience, we come together, and we are very authentic,” says Torres of his ERG experience at Capital One. “We wear our hearts on our sleeves and it comes across very naturally. Again, that’s probably a result of our upbringing and our experiences. What I’ve learned is that [can be perceived as] somewhat intimidating by others, and that it wasn’t coming from a place of fear, it was coming from a place of lack of understanding. So I’ve spent a lot of time in my leadership career focusing on creating that safe place for people to be themselves and to be authentic.”  

ERGs also give employees a chance to connect, network, and grow their careers within the organization. A huge part of DEI is not only who and how you recruit and hire but also whether your diversity efforts continue all the way up the organizational ladder. Building diversity in leadership is about creating and exposing underrepresented groups to opportunity.

At Qualcomm, diverse hiring panels help ensure there are fewer biases in the hiring process, says Sanchez, who adds that the company’s panels reflect the diversity they want to see in the organization. Once candidates are hired, internal coding bootcamps can help open new opportunities within the organization.

As for leadership opportunities, Torres says Capital One works closely with nonprofit groups such as Hispanic IT Executive Council (HITEC) to develop leadership and emerging executive programs and tech college classes for employees to work on developing new skills.

Giving back and pushing forward

Like Torres, Grijalva also believes in the power of helping to uplift the next generation. To that end, Go Daddy’s Latinx and Technology ERG has built a partnership with a local high school in Arizona that has a majority Hispanic and Black demographic, where they review resumes of juniors and seniors.

They also help students better understand how their background and experiences can boost their resumes and even help them in interviews. Grijalva says they hold conversations with the students about how to show up to job interviews, what challenges they might face, and that “you don’t have to speak perfect English in order to nail your interview,” he says.

“Because most of the time when you’re going for a job at a job interview, leaders are looking for commitment and dedication. And by having those conversations younger, they really start understanding that it doesn’t matter much about the color of [their] skin or [their] accent in this meeting. Really what it comes down to is having a mentor showing [them] a roadmap,” Grijalva says.

Making a difference indeed.

Diversity and Inclusion, IT Leadership

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


“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


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


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

By: Cathy Won, Consultant with eTeam, HPE Aruba Contributor.

The Future of Work and the Workplace is a 2023 Leesman survey report co-authored by HPE Aruba. The report explores the critical questions on the minds of business leaders coming out of the pandemic today. What is the future of work and the workplace? How must organizations adapt?

Unsurprisingly, the report revealed that 94% of corporate real estate leaders surveyed indicated that they are making changes, with 55% indicating that means making minor physical changes to the workplace and 39% indicating it means making a major change to the workplace.

Many of the physical changes to the workplace call for reconfiguring office space as hybrid work becomes the new normal. With a reduction in real estate footprint, today’s offices will change from permanent office space for individuals to shared spaces for individuals. New requirements for the configuration of offices and conference rooms are a part of an ever-changing landscape in the future of work and workplaces. Many organizations can take advantage of these changes to modernize their technologies and infrastructure. The opportunity is timely for organizations to re-evaluate their network infrastructure as the shift occurs to address a new work paradigm. 

The big shift to hybrid work was an instant change at the onset of the pandemic for many, dictated by new rules put in place to address the safety of employees. With hybrid work making such a significant impact on the future of work, it is no surprise that network infrastructure change is inevitable for today’s new reality. The shift to hybrid work created a major shift in ensuring the same kind of accessibility for workers whether they were in the office or working from home. The various factors of remote access come into play, where at the end of the day, the objective was to ensure an equivalent service level of accessibility, connectivity, and security to enable the most efficient ways for workers to accomplish their job regardless of their location. 

Technology advances in networking today are also occurring at a faster pace than ever before, sometimes leaving organizations bootstrapped with limited capital to adjust to the fast-changing landscape. So, redesigning for the future workplace is the perfect trigger to re-evaluate your current network infrastructure. Coupled with today’s business dynamics, most organizations find this time the most optimal to modernize their network to meet growing and evolving needs. An increasingly viable approach for keeping workplace network infrastructure aligned with the acceleration in changing workplace requirements is network as a service (NaaS). 

Why NaaS?

NaaS enables companies to implement a network infrastructure that will evolve with time, providing the flexibility to adapt to business needs as time evolves. With NaaS, companies can focus on business outcomes and service level objectives for their network and the accessibility required for their community of workers, partners, and customers. NaaS eliminates organizations having to worry about keeping up with the pace of technology change by relying on the strength and expertise of their implementation partner. NaaS eliminates large upfront capital expenditure investments that often go into new network infrastructure design, planning, and implementation with a monthly subscription-based or flexible consumption model, alleviating the financial impact on rebuilding a new workplace environment. NaaS enables more flexibility by not tying the organization down to specific hardware or capital investments that may eventually become obsolete. 

Additionally, NaaS enables the ability to flex down requirements should real estate space strategies change. If the services are completely outsourced, organizations can free themselves from keeping up with technology and training resources to support changes moving forward.

Given the many uncertainties and lessons learned from the pandemic, the one inevitable thing is change. One solution that is almost synonymous with change in network infrastructure is network as a service (NaaS), which enables organizations to maintain and revolutionize their network infrastructure to support their desired service level indefinitely without large capital investments.

For more data-driven insights derived from 75,000 workers on what the future of the workplace holds, read the eBook, Powering Hybrid Work 2023, and the full Aruba/Leesman report as listed above, The Future of Work and the Workplace.


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

Remote and hybrid work is here to stay. In an increasingly complex security environment, no challenge looms larger than how to protect remote devices that tie back into the corporate network.

In fact, modernizing networking technologies ranks among the top IT goals for 2022 according to an IDG survey conducted on behalf of Insight Enterprises. 

With more users working remotely, tools and processes designed for corporate networks are less effective for endpoint protection, leaving IT teams scrambling to keep their users protected. By some estimates, cybercrime could cost companies an estimated $10.5 trillion annually by 2025, up from $3 trillion in 2015.

When polled, CIO Experts Network of IT professionals and industry analysts stressed the need for employee buy-in, as well as a commitment to device management and endpoint security.

Most importantly, however, is building a strong security culture that encourages best practices across the organizations. The IDG survey found that 36% of respondents say that mitigating risk with stronger cybersecurity programs is a top objective for 2022. 

According to several influencers, that requires acceptance and buy-in from leadership:

“Corporations should look at homes as an extension of their organization’s boundaries. Which means that the same/similar tools, technologies, processes, and safeguards should be taken into consideration for people working from home.”

— Arsalan.A.Khan (@ArsalanAKhan), a tech advisor

“All devices, regardless of home use or business use, should incorporate cyber security and accessibility. It is critical to understand any potential security issues that might crop up on their home networks. Creating processes that incorporate these best practices will help you keep your employees’ technology and devices safe.”

— Debra Ruh (@debraruh), Ruh Global IMPACT and Executive Chair of Billion Strong

“When someone says, ‘do as I say, not as I do,’ it means they are a hypocrite. Security hypocrisy is when firms don’t enforce the same level of security controls for remote workers as they do on-premises. Firms serious about security must ensure that remote users follow the same robust security controls their onsite brethren do.”

— Ben Rothke (@benrothke), Senior Information Security Manager at Tapad

When leadership takes protecting remote devices connecting to the corporate network seriously, there are three simple steps to take to build a robust security framework for their network. 

“There are three device attack protection vectors to consider: the user, their applications, and the network,” says Adam Stein(@apstein2), Principal at APS Marketing. “For the user, keep up to date with ongoing security threats that could possibly impact their work at home. The user’s applications also need regular updating for ideal end-point protection.” 

Building Employee Trust and Buy-In

Security is only as strong as its weakest link. For Gene Delibero (@GeneDeLibero), CSO at, ensuring strong security requires a strong security culture that educates and empowers workers.

“First, and perhaps most important, is creating a culture of accountability around security; it’s not just the company’s problem, it’s everyone’s problem,” says Delibero (@GeneDeLibero). “Organizations can’t expect remote employees to execute security measures effectively when they haven’t been trained on the company’s security policies.”

Steve Prentice (@cloudtweaksteve), a technology integration specialist, argues that truly dedicated organizations should build an entirely new architecture to make sure remote workers, and their devices, are up to the task. “This should become a new branch of internal IT security — specifically investigating, securing, and even penetrating the home offices of employees the same way as is done in an office. Employers should treat their employees’ home workspace and mobile technologies as branch offices — still a less expensive option than paying for building floor space, cubicles, etc.”

Isaac Sacolik (@nyike), President of StarCIO and author of “Digital Trailblazer,” adds that building a security culture should go hand in hand with building a positive work environment. “It all starts with the mindset and practices aimed at improving productivity and supporting work-life balance through flexible remote and hybrid work technology options. As employees gain trust with IT, they’re more open to learning and improving security, including locking down home networks, protecting data, and following IT’s recommendation on protecting devices.”

Securing Individual Devices 

After earning buy-in from employees, organizations still need to secure their devices. 

“Organizations should invest in a combination of asset management, endpoint detection, data loss prevention, cloud-based managed detection and response, and patch or vulnerability management,” says Kayne Mcgladrey (@kaynemcgladrey), Field CISO at Hyperproof and Senior IEEE Member. “Of those, asset management is the starting point, as an organization should have visibility into the devices accessing corporate data and be able to select and apply appropriate controls to those devices. Those controls then may include endpoint protection or data loss protection, for example, if exfiltration of sensitive corporate data may result in compliance violations.” 

Employing this strategy empowers an organization’s IT team to protect the corporate network from a wide range of threats, according to Will Kelly (@willkelly), a writer and analyst. “My best advice for protecting at home devices starts with a solid and robust mobile device management (MDM) solution and supporting processes. An MDM automates operating system updates, security patches, virus scanning, application updates, and device security configuration, such as setting a lock screen.”

Jack Gold (@jckgld), President and Principal Analyst at J.Gold Associates, LLC., takes that one step farther. “It’s important to segregate work at home devices from other users in the family. You probably don’t want your kids playing games or web surfing on the PC you use for doing work. That could be enforced by giving workers a corporate furnished — and managed — PC exclusively for their use.”

Ensuring Endpoint Security

Kieran Gilmurray (@KieranGilmurray), CEO at Digital Automation and Robotics Limited, feels that securing the corporate network relies on implementing quality endpoint security practices. 

“Threat actors have taken advantage of the pandemic by targeting unsuspecting remote workers. Every ‘at home’ network connected device is a potential entry point for criminal activity,” says Gilmurray. “So now, employees are provided with a secure VPN between their home network and their corporate offices. The only way to protect remote devices is to apply best practice corporate ‘endpoint’ security practices to every device attached to a home network.”

To compensate, organizations can take a strategic approach that prioritizes high risk accounts and devices. Peter Nichol (@PeterBNichol), Chief Technology Officer at OROCA Innovations instructs to “Start with what the employer can control. Be sure to prioritize energy around high-risk endpoints. Specifically, privileged accounts or accounts with elevated access should be managed within privileged access management (PAM). Companies who act on endpoint security today will save themselves big headaches tomorrow.”

Robust endpoint security helps reinforce human weaknesses in the corporate network, says Frank Cutitta (@fcutitta), CEO & Founder HealthTech Decisions Lab. “The human vulnerability overpowers any technological protection one can install. We’re always just one errant click away from ransom or breach. While it sounds incredibly obvious, setting your computer to lock after a short period of time can also minimize external access along with changing passwords frequently. Face or fingerprint recognition software adds added security.”

While endpoint security is an important part of a robust security apparatus, it won’t protect an organization’s corporate network on its own. “Some advanced precautions might seem like overkill for a home office, but not if we view the home office as a mere extension of the corporate network,” says Scott Schober (@ScottBVS), President/CEO at Berkeley Varitronics Systems, Inc. “Endpoint visibility and detection at each home office allows IT to view the actual number of endpoints that need protection.” 

The ultimate answer may come via strong partnerships: The same IDG/Insight survey found that 87% of respondents will rely on third-party providers for support with challenges around infrastructure, operations, and culture. 

“‘Endpoint anything,’ including protection that is based with on-premises technology, is limited in what it can do and what it can reach in today’s world. On-premises requires a lot of extra configuration and cost to support devices that are mostly remote when compared to a cloud-based solution in which touching or accessing a device from any location is just native with minimal infrastructure,” says Joseph Flynn, Director of Modern Workplace at Insight. “Endpoint security is harder to drive XDR types of services in an on-premises solution, as AI is usually in play. This tends to drive much of the automation and protection to streamline and increase capabilities. Having those capabilities on-premises in most tools is not possible unless they connect to some cloud platform”

Insight Enterprises, Inc. is a Fortune 500 solutions integrator helping organizations accelerate their digital journey to modernize their business and maximize the value of technology. Insight’s technical expertise spans cloud- and edge-based transformation solutions, with global scale and optimization built on 34 years of deep partnerships with the world’s leading and emerging technology providers.

Chrome Enterprise Upgrade (CEU) from Insight provides a simple and secure way to manage your devices. Try for free today

Data and Information Security

CIOs supporting a hybrid mix of in-office and remote workers, and those who float between, need to implement new tools and strategies to get it right. But they will also need to change how they think about hybrid work, which analyst firm Forrester characterizes as “messy” even as it says 51% of organizations are moving in this direction.

Hybrid work is often thought of in terms of location, according to a November Gartner report. “If leaders focus on location alone, they’ll miss much larger benefits … including flexible experiences, intentional collaboration, and empathy-based management,’’ the report cautions.

Adopting a flexible, human-centric approach that puts people at the center of work will lead to better employee performance, lower fatigue, and intent to stay, according to the firm.

“Even if skeptical leaders are less concerned about fatigue and retention of talent in today’s tight economic climate, they care about performance,” says Graham Waller, a distinguished vice president analyst at Gartner. “Leaders too often are making future of work decisions based on instincts and feelings today. This can be a big mistake as the way we used to work won’t anymore.” 

Unfortunately, when it comes to supporting hybrid workforces and anticipating how organizations will conduct work in the future, CIOs will likely make a number of mistakes before they successfully facilitate the optimal workplace for their organizations in 2023 and beyond. Here are the most likely culprits.

Shortchanging your return-to-office strategy

Remote work caused a great deal of Zoom fatigue in 2022, driven by factors such as a lack of manager coaching on how to connect with teams remotely, says Rebecca Wettemann, principal at tech analyst firm Valoir Research, not to mention the exhaustion and burn out of channeling employees’ every interaction through a screen.

But as employees have come back to the office anticipating the benefits of in-person interactions, many have been disappointed, thanks to an organization not fully prepared for their arrival, she says, despite, in many cases, mandates to do so.

“The biggest tech fail was expecting folks to come back to the office without sophisticated scheduling for knowledge workers, who found themselves commuting to the office to find there was no one there they needed/wanted to see,’’ Wettemann says.

Moving forward, leaders need to include “more presence monitoring and prediction so when people do come to the office they can meet with teams in person,’’ she says. They should also incorporate “a more data-driven approach to scheduling that ensures hybrid work supports diversity, equity, and inclusion, and a more line-of-work focused collaboration strategy rather than a one-size-fits-all-job functions approach,’’ Wettemann says.

Kim Huffman, CIO of global travel expense management platform TripActions, learned firsthand that not having a framework for what the return to the office would look like meant employees did not get the benefits of the in-person experience.

“Things get messy … when you don’t have any structure around the return to work,’’ she says, adding that having no formal construct for returning to the office was a “lesson learned’’ for her and other TripActions company leaders, and since then, “we’ve organized ourselves a little bit better.”

Eroding the culture of trust and connectedness

Kim Huffman, CIO, TripActions


Productivity questions were one “bubbling point of tension” Huffman encountered as part of TripActions’ return-to-office experience. On the one hand, workers who came back to the office felt like they were not as productive, while the people leading teams felt the same about people working remotely, Huffman says.

“It has exacerbated this phenomenon of what really is driving productivity: Is it being in the office or being at home?’’ she says. “There are varying points of view that are being hotly contested across tech companies in the Bay Area right now, and it’s going to be a very interesting journey to watch over the course of the next two quarters.”

Because some people have come back to the office, Huffman believes there is still a stubborn perception that the ones who don’t come back are not as productive. IT leaders need to anticipate this tension and get ahead of it, to ensure not only that employees can remain productive wherever they are but that the organization’s culture of trust doesn’t deteriorate.

Here, the key is ensuring a culture of connectedness, Gartner contends. “IT leaders and employees … overwhelmingly feel that culture connectedness is primarily driven by day-to-day work interactions, and not from being in the office,” according to the firm, which found that 58% of IT workers strongly believe that meaningful connections are based on day-to-day interactions, not where they are located, with only 21% of IT workers agreeing that connectedness is driven by being in the office.

Failing to level the playing field

With hybrid meetings on the rise, there’s a delicate balance to maintain between how your organization serves participants attending meetings in person and those who attend remotely.

Jamie Smith, CIO, University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix CIO Jamie Smith, for example, has seen that hybrid meetings have “deepened the chasm” between people who have been coming into the office and those who have remained remote. “We found people on the remote end felt they were less than … because they didn’t have the option to come into Phoenix,’’ he says.

To counteract that, for every meeting with an in-person option, leaders will now do a second purely remote meeting “so everyone feels they’re on the same playing field,’’ he says.

The university uses Zoom, Slack, and Microsoft Teams, but plans to deepen its use of whiteboard technology with a tool called Miro that “feels like you’re collaborating in the same room,’’ Smith says.

Smith’s IT team is always looking for tools to help the university’s employees be asynchronous, he adds, given that they now have employees in more time zones. This means “just having to live with those realities where we didn’t before,’’ which has “forced us in this asynchronous mode,” he says.

Overlooking the innovation factor

And it’s not just the employee experience that can be hindered by poorly conceived hybrid strategies. Innovation efforts can also falter when collaboration experiences are uneven.

Bess Healy, CIO, Synchrony


Early on in hybrid work at consumer finance company Synchrony, CIO Bess Healy says she and other company leaders “quickly learned that hybrid innovation requires a different level of facilitation to succeed.”

Events that had previously been all day in person felt draining to team members on video, Healy says, “so we split them up over multiple days. When we competed in events like hackathons, team members missed the camaraderie of eating together at all hours of the night, so we replicated that with meal credits wherever they are.”

Company leaders also put a higher emphasis on “planned fun” by playing games in person and taking a “brain break during an ideation event.”

“Three years in, these changes have brought more people into our innovation teams than ever before, inspiring new ideas in metaverse, payments, customer experience, and more,’’ Healy says.

Not reimagining the office to fit the new hybrid paradigm

It’s important to give people an incentive to want to come back into an office and be together. One approach some organizations are taking is to design office spaces differently instead of just rows of desks or cubicles.

“One of our offices is new and we’re trying to build space where there’s room for conversations and groups to get together, not just all desks,’’ says Huffman. Leaders should make it a priority to reimagine office layouts this year, she says.

Being slow to experiment with future tech

Virtual reality is one technology that could have an impact on the future of work, and some IT leaders are considering the benefits.

Oculus headsets from Meta, for example, are being rolled out on a trial basis at the University of Phoenix, which has made the decision to go fully remote. This was a big mindset change for Smith, who felt pre-pandemic that “face-to-face collaboration was better and high fidelity for creativity purposes,’’ he says. “Then, when everything shifted to full-time remote, it went against my core beliefs, so personally, I had to lean in.”

Smith has come to realize that staying remote has not affected IT’s ability to collaborate and teams have been able to remain productive and launch “complex new products into the marketplace.” He says that working remotely has increased his ability to access tech talent outside of the Phoenix area.

But when people were working in a hybrid model early on, there would be multiple conversations going on, and “people on the remote end were getting the short end of the stick” because they “couldn’t get a word in edgewise,’’ Smith recalls.

So he hired his first audio engineer who revamped the majority of the university’s meeting technology. The Oculus headsets are being tested by some teams in their daily standup design sessions to see whether they will help the teams work better. The idea is to understand whether “tools get in the way or do they help?’’ he says. “A lot of [collaboration] technologies are still pretty early in terms of capabilities.”

Some initial feedback is that using a physical keyboard in the headset is problematic, but Smith says the experiment will continue in early 2023. “The expense isn’t that much but the question is, Is it a toy or something that fundamentally changes the [remote work] experience?”

Not bringing IT to bear on the office of the future

In addition to rethinking the office and having a sound return-to-office strategy, IT leaders would be wise to invest in technologies tailored to facilitate better hybrid work experiences.

Robin Hamerlinck Lane, SVP and CIO, Shure


At audio electronics company Shure, leaders have “spent a significant amount of time listening to our employees about hybrid work” and subsequently developed a plan called “WorkPlace Now” based on what they learned, says Robin Hamerlinck Lane, senior vice president and CIO.

Employees are free to choose a hybrid work model, and Hamerlinck Lane says company officials have made adjustments for the future workforce by providing different tools for them to adapt.

For example, “we moved to flexible seating in our global offices, so hybrid workers could still have a space to work when they came into the office. With the iOffice app, employees can reserve their workspaces in advance or when they arrive,’’ she says.

IT has developed a ticket system where employees who work remotely can request a remote kit that includes tools to be able to work effectively outside of the office and still remain connected to others, she says.

In 2023, IT will roll out Teams in more conference rooms. “We are especially interested in leveraging camera views and panels that provide equality in our meeting experiences between offsite and onsite associates,’’ Hamerlinck Lane says.

Hybrid work is here to stay, and this also requires looking at adding new layers of security, she says. IT is also thinking about the company’s telecom needs long-term. “Associates have migrated to mobile and/or IP-based telephony, and so we need to look at evolving the traditional desk phone,” she says.

Underestimating the power of low-code/no code

Among several IT initiatives for Shure in 2023 will be prioritizing citizen development with low-code/no-code, Hamerlinck Lane says. Another is building a platform on AWS to enable the company’s development teams as software is migrated to the cloud and to support IoT products. Shure is also investing in Office 365.

“Our entire data program is built to enable data and end-user tools to allow end-user empowerment.”

Kellogg’s Senior Vice President and Global CIO Lesley Salmon agrees, saying that as the demand for apps continues to grow, citizen development will become the norm to help people work more efficiently, and they will soon start using Microsoft’s low-code Power Platform.

“We’ll enable and encourage our organization to develop their own apps by building a community approach to learning and support,” she says.

And what better way to foster the future of work than to empower employees to improve work processes themselves.

Collaboration Software, IT Leadership, Staff Management