Supporting the future of work: A key CIO challenge

COVID-19 has changed workplaces forever. Here’s how work policies are likely to evolve — and how IT leaders can rise to the occasion.

Supporting the future of work: A key CIO challenge
Aleksandar Nakic / Getty Images

In spring of 2020, as the pandemic took hold in the U.S., most companies switched some or all of their employees to remote work out of necessity. What they may not have known at the time is that doing so will likely change the American workplace forever.

Regardless of whether remote work was part of a pre-pandemic long-term workforce plan, one thing is now clear: The work-from-home genie is out of the bottle, and no one can put it back in.

“As IT, we doled that out cautiously and, in some cases, we leveraged auditors’ concerns that certain positions shouldn’t work from home,” says Ralph Labarta, CIO/CTO at the HR services provider Engage PEO. “Although the intent of those barriers was good, the rules were rewritten overnight. The auditors say this position shouldn’t work from home? Well that’s great, but the office is closed.”

Before COVID-19, most organizations had either considered and rejected the notion of remote work, or never even considered it, says Gartner VP and analyst Suzanne Adnams. “They thought they’d never be able to figure out their processes, or that their culture would be affected.”

Those same executives have now come around, she says. “They went into it somewhat reluctantly, to put it mildly. They were surprised. We heard from these leaders that their people were transitioning very quickly to the new work from home situation and were very happy doing it. They were at least as productive, if not more so.”

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