Why CIOs need to lead the way to a workplace of the future

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COVID-19 has changed every aspect of our lives and particularly in the way we work. Pressure has been put on business leaders to determine how to help their employees get back into the office in a way that helps them feel secure and supported, while also ensuring those working remotely can collaborate.

Moreover, the pandemic has put employee wellbeing at the forefront of the business agenda, in part due to the challenges that have risen from having to work from home. According to NTT's 2020 Intelligent Workplace Report, almost four-fifths (78.5%) of Australian and New Zealand organisations agree with this. Feelings of isolation and a lack of a dedicated workspace can accentuate the usual stresses and strains of the workplace, while unsuitable technology can make even the simplest tasks a headache. Executive leaders and in particular, CIOs, have an opportunity to lead their businesses into the future – combining culture and technology to optimise employee experience and ultimately drive businesses forward.

The future of work IS hybrid

According to NTT's research, over half (55.3%) of C-suite executives strongly agree that now is the time to create the workplace of the future. Hybrid working models have been embraced by organisations in a bid to enable employees to have the flexibility to work from home or the office, depending on their needs and preferences. While these models will be effective in allowing organisations to adapt to this new world, CIOs need to be getting ahead of the curve on new technologies to make this happen.

It’s no surprise to find that the research also showed that 87.7% of ANZ businesses believe employee needs will also be a critical factor in developing the future workplace. As a starting point, tech leaders need to be intimately involved in ensuring their office design aligns with employee needs; including facilitating creativity and collaboration, driving activity-based work initiatives and ensuring the right technology, such as video conferencing/video collaboration, is in place to connect a distributed workforce.

It’s all about policy

Despite the significant shift in working habits, the Intelligent Workplace Report highlighted that less than a third (28.5%) of businesses across Australia and New Zealand – as opposed to 30.7% of businesses globally – have changed their IT policy to help employees work with a new operating model while less than half (38.5%) deployed new communication and productivity tools. Additionally, only 46.2% have increased their IT security capabilities to keep their organisation and employees secure.

With all of the changes we have experienced over the last several months and the changes that are still to come, it’s no longer enough to rely on outdated policies and technologies. To maintain employee engagement, it’s now imperative that employees are kept connected, whether it be through policies or collaborative technologies that support the new reality.

In order to safeguard the wellness and experience of employees, CIOs must therefore be proactively involved in helping the business revamp policies around the ‘connected employee.’ This is essential to cementing long-term digital transformation, helping employees feel confident and comfortable with the new technology so that investments don’t go to waste.

Investing in training and analytics

Beyond technology for individual employees, it’s critical that business leaders and in particular, CIOs, have access to workplace analytics to help them see if adoption is occurring and for them to assess new pain points introduced by remote working. However, NTT's research shows that many organisations are finding it difficult to integrate data from disparate platforms with wellbeing metrics, such as sentiment and wellbeing, into an overall eNPS. This is an area for improvement from both a technology and process standpoint.

In addition, the rapid adoption of these technologies has not always been supported with enough or the right kind of training. It’s important for CIOs to clearly communicate the benefits of new technologies to employees as individuals, and ensure they’re trained to use it effectively. By reviewing what applications and features people are using, business execs can learn how to prioritise, tailor and measure the impact of training to positively impact on adoption, usage and productivity – all of which contribute to the employee experience.

What next?

NTT's Intelligent Workplace Report has undoubtedly highlighted that business execs need to reimagine the workplace – where it is, what it looks like and, most importantly, who it’s for.

Having spent the last several months adapting to the pandemic, it’s clear that now is the time to do it. While CEOs and business leaders set the tone for how the rest of the organisation adapts to the challenges posed by reshaped workplaces, it is down to CIOs to lay the foundations for an entire generation’s future of working. Those who are already ahead of the game in employee experience, making brave, data-driven, human-led decisions, are now in a much stronger position to create a supportive culture.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.