A recent virtual roundtable sponsored by Adobe featured a deep and nuanced discussion about remote/hybrid work and the impact it will have on organizations. Toni Vanwinkle, Senior Director of Digital Workplace Experience at Adobe, and a group of senior IT professionals provided more depth and insight than are usually encountered in most discussions of the topic.
One surprising revelation was that, while many of us have viewed the pandemic as the catalyst for the remote/hybrid work trend, most of the organizations represented at this virtual roundtable (VRT) were already moving down the path toward greater support for remote work before the COVID-19 lockdowns. For them, doing so was a clear-cut and necessary business development. Factors that made it so included:
- Employees’ and job candidates’ increasing desire for policies that would allow at least some work from home in the interest of work/life balance
- A lack of qualified employees in the geographic area of the organization’s physical offices
- A more complete strategy for supporting remote work during business trips and other out-of-office time
The pandemic certainly accelerated the pace of support and focused management attention on the issue—and, even more importantly, prompted businesses to put more resources and budget into support for remote/hybrid work.
The comments from the independent IT professionals aligned closely with Adobe’s strategies for supporting remote/hybrid work. Despite rising vaccination levels and falling case counts, there is no backsliding from delivering parity for out-of-office work. As one attendee noted, “The toothpaste is not going back into the tube.”
Toni and the VRT participants also agreed that, in order for remote/hybrid work to be effective, it is vitally important to make business data easily available to employees, regardless of location. This involves much more than providing access to files in OneDrive or SharePoint. For the roundtable participants, data delivery is Remote Work 1.0, and data must be made available with the right tools to optimize its use. This includes intelligent solutions that can help employees build valuable analytics and insights from increasingly large datasets.
That insight led to the related consensus that employees need a full platform that can empower them. A key point is that we need to “keep humans at the center” when designing the experience. In addition, they must support asynchronous work. Collaboration among employees who work in different states or even countries must be optimized. The intelligent tools might be put to work on a dataset by one employee, but the results will be used by many others. The platforms that organizations choose must enable groups of employees to collaborate on analytics and findings from the data. Many of the IT professionals participating in the VRT said that delivering these digital workflows via the cloud is now their preferred approach.
The attendees even saw the potential for a remote/hybrid work platform to enhance professional development. Employees who work on their own most of the time, away from the office environment, need digital career and skill development support. As one participant observed, “Just being a productive employee is not enough. Are we supporting them to be better employees?” The digital platform needs to support learning and even provide a form of digital mentoring, so that remote workers get the same career development benefits as those in the office.
Adobe has already taken many of these steps in its support for remote work with platforms such as Adobe Document Cloud, Adobe Sign, and Adobe’s artificial intelligence engine, Sensei. This event showed the benefits of the partnership between IT professionals and forward-looking IT vendors to support modern workstyles. The way forward is clear. The new functionality and capabilities in industry-leading platforms will get us there.