Author: Alex Bennett, Vice President of Intelligent Workplace at NTT Ltd.
In December 2019, analyst firm Ecosytm predicted that, in 2020, employee experience would drive faster adoption of collaboration tools and that HR and IT would further invest in workplace analytics. What they couldn’t foresee, however, was a global pandemic that would not only prove these predictions correct, but force employee experience to the forefront of business agendas.
In fact, according to NTT Ltd.’s 2020 Intelligent Workplace Report ‘Shaping Employee Experiences for a World Transformed’, which surveyed 1,350 participants across 19 markets, four-fifths (79%) of organizations agree that working from home has been challenging for employees during the pandemic. Many have found that connectivity and workspace issues such as bandwidth and a lack of dedicated workspace has affected their productivity.
Remote working isn’t new, yet many organizations heavily relied on employees gaining access to a physical office to carry out all aspects of their role. Therefore, during the pandemic, 89.5% of organizations, according to the same repot, were forced to become more reliant on technology. Many employees were left to use personal devices and applications, rapidly increasing a sense of isolation, as well as the risk of security vulnerabilities.
With the pandemic spurring a huge global increase in cybercrime looking to exploit weaknesses, helping employees stay connected while also protecting their data is the cornerstone to looking after the workforce and maintaining productivity and effectiveness.
It’s a team effort; but the team must act quickly
CIOs recognize the need to work with CHROs, CISOs, and facilities management to build a more robust workplace strategy that will permanently provide for a distributed, flexible, and secure workforce. The way they choose to re-shape their workplace strategy will lay the foundation for an entire generation’s future of working. Importantly, the strategy needs to demonstrate a clear link between the business priorities, organizational culture, and the technology that supports the transformation.
The purpose of change must also be communicated regularly within the organization. CIOs, as key stakeholders, will need to drive programs in real-time, compared to previously implementing over months, if not years. They will also need to explain the benefits to those involved. Many sectors, such as retail and manufacturing, were upended during the pandemic, meaning they have had to switch business models quickly and support change with digital transformation. Enabling employees to operate and communicate seamlessly within these new models is a critical part of either success or failure.
However, according to the Intelligent Workplace Report, less than one-third of all businesses (30.7%) have changed their IT policy to help employees work within a new operating model. And well under half (43.3%) have deployed new communication and productivity tools. In fact, only 46.4% have increased their IT security capabilities to keep their organization and employees secure.
Tailoring the workplace strategy of the future
Studies show 75% of employees prefer to work from an office versus home. When safe to do so, building the workplace strategy of tomorrow will mean more than just reviewing policies. It will require a rethink of the technology – infrastructure, business applications, collaborative solutions, and the checks and balances in place to secure new environments – that will underpin those policies.
Understanding the C-suite view of the future office design will help determine how to support and secure the business with technology. This can be tricky. The report found that global C-suite execs are somewhat polarized on what to do with office space in general – over one-third (34.4%) say they want to reduce office space, yet almost one-quarter (24.0%) plan to increase it.
Nonetheless, most agree on a more collaborative, flexible, and creative view of how the office will be used. Nearly half (45.0%) plan to install video conferencing/video collaboration spaces to bring remote and office employees together, almost one-third (31.2%) will implement creative/thinking spaces, and over one-quarter want to drive activity-based work initiatives. Among these, 27.4% want to reduce individual office desk space and 29.9% increase meeting spaces.
Roll out and adoption of tools complemented with training
Once a technology roadmap is set, based on a more flexible and distributed workforce and created in line with business priorities, CIOs will play a pivotal role in enabling technology adoption. To do this, the right training must be in place so employees feel comfortable with their new platforms.
Report findings show that across global organizations, just 41.6% of businesses have access to workplace analytics. Yet, analytics will help CIOs to understand which features most people use as well as adoption rates in general. This will enable organizations to prioritize, tailor, and measure the impact of training in order to positively impact adoption, usage, and productivity – all of which contributes to the employee experience.
A data-driven, human strategy with security in mind
On average, Americans are putting in three extra working hours a day during the lockdown. This means businesses need to help employees work more productively, feel supported, and stay seamlessly connected. If businesses do not, it could have a real impact on burnout.
The workplace strategy that CIOs define now will have a knock-on impact on culture, technology, and location – the three cornerstones to improving the employee experience. In addition, every strategy should be underpinned with robust security to protect new environments and employee data—that way, the chosen technology does not expose what it’s meant to protect.
Read more about the NTT Ltd. 2020 Intelligent Workplace Report ‘Shaping Employee Experiences for a World Transformed’